Reading Matters

Thanks to writers who promote other writers

One thing to be grateful for is the generosity of writers who devote their precious time to the promotion of other writers.

Such a one is Robert Morgan, a Hendersonville native who teaches at Cornell and is the author of the novel, “Gap Creek,” and the more recent novel, “Chasing the North Star,” as well as “Boone: A Biography,” and many volumes of excellent poetry.

What Morgan has done is resurrect the Buncombe County writer Wilma Dykeman. After her death in 2006, Dykeman’s son found among her papers a 200-page unpublished memoir, written during WWII, when Dykeman was in her 20s.

As Morgan writes in the Foreword to the now-published “Family of Earth: A Southern Mountain Childhood,” Dykeman belongs to the second generation of “gifted Southern and Southern Appalachian writers, following the literary renaissance of Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Eudora Welty, James Still, Margaret Mitchell, Erskine Caldwell, among others.”

In one section, she writes about the closing of the Asheville banks in 1929, whe she was nine.

“When we reached town, a line of people stood before the closed doors of the bank building and other people milled around in noisy groups. How queer it seemed to see those doors closed on a week-day morning. I could remember all the times I had been inside and stood beside the white marble counters, wondering when I would be high enough to see over the top. I could remember the dark mouth of the vault which stood at the back of the long room, and the iron grillwork which covered that mouth; the low, efficient voices of the tellers as they spoke with Mother or Daddy about something or counted out bills for them; the shininess of it all -- the glistening marble, the spittoons, the clear tall windows. Now it was closed and locked.”

“Family of Earth” is a beautifully written, insightful book about her life, about nature, mountain people, and about Dykeman’s grandmother, Loretta Ballard Cole, a significant influence in Dykeman’s young life.

So thank you, Robert Morgan, for the gift of this little book, and thank you, UNC Press, for making it available to all.

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