Six books from the W.Va. publishing house to add to your reading list

MORGANTOWN — Award-winning books by black authors on a variety of topics will help shape perceptions of Appalachia, West Virginia and West Virginia University, according to Derek Krissoff, director of WVU Press.

The University’s publishing house has a collection of books relating to black history and black experiences that offer readers the opportunity to explore black histories.

“My colleagues and I always hope that readers will learn from our books and be challenged, entertained and surprised,” Krissoff said. “We hope that WVU Press’ nationally recognized Black Studies program — and our award-winning books by black authors on a variety of topics — will help shape perceptions of Appalachia, West Virginia and WVU.”

“In 2020, the only black finalist for the nation’s most prestigious fiction award (“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” by National Book Award finalist Deesha Philyaw) was published by West Virginia University, and this news has been reported by nearly every major American news outlet,” he added. “My colleagues and I see a similar strength in our more conventional scholarly works of black authors, notably ‘The Harlan Renaissance’ by William H. Turner and “African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry” by Joe Trotter. These two titles, published in the last few months, are preeminent chroniclers of black life in Appalachia. »

Below are the books recommended by WVU Press:

● “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies,” by Deeshaw Philyaw, explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and seek a momentary respite from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught between the double standards of the church and their own needs and passions.

●“The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Mining Towns,” by William H. Turner is an intimate recollection of kinship and community in Eastern Kentucky mining towns. Turner reconstructs black life in company towns in and around Harlan County during the final years of the postwar coal boom, which turned into a lasting collapse as the children of black miners, such as the author, were leaving the region in search of better opportunities.

●“African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry,” by Joe Trotter, is a collection that brings together nearly three decades of research on the African-American experience, class and race relations in the Appalachian coal industry. It shows how, deeply rooted in the antebellum era of chattel slavery, West Virginia’s black working class gradually grew in strength during the emancipation years following the Civil War and s was considerably developed at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

●“Memoirs of Mrs. Elaw’s Life, Religious Experience, Ministry Travels, and Labors,” by Zilpha Elaw and edited by Kimberly D. Blockett shares Elaw’s story as a young black orphan under contract with a Quaker family in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Elaw decided to join the Upstart Methodists in 1808. She preached her first sermon a decade later, ignoring her husband and the many church leaders, clergy and laity who tried to silence her. Elaw’s memoirs chronicle the first 20 years of his 40-year itinerant ministry during the massive Protestant revival in the United States and England.

●“Nominated”, by William Anderson and Walter Stowers, two of the editors of Detroit Plaindeal, a long-running and well-regarded African-American newspaper of the late 19th century. Drawing heavily on 19th century print culture, the authors tell the story of John Saunders, a college-educated black man living and working in Detroit.

●“Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge”, by Frances Harriet Whipple with Elleanor Eldridge and edited by Joycelyn K. Moody is an exceptional pre-war biography, chronicling Eldridge’s life from birth. Because of Eldridge’s exceptional life as a freeborn female entrepreneur of color, it serves as a counter-narrative to early 19th-century New England slave narratives, altering the literary landscape of conventional studies of the American Renaissance and Interpretations of American Transcendentalism.

Find a comprehensive list of WVU Press books related to black history.