For a long time, the voices that dominated the stories of what it was like to live in the Appalachians were conservative and white. Although many Appalachian cities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are not always racially diverse, these cities are inhabited by people of color, and their experiences are unique and important.
Nima Avashia, author Another Appalachian: quirky and Native American in a mountainous locationtells the story of what it was like to be the child of immigrants living in West Virginia. Another Appalachian full of stories of triumph, disappointment and family, and how the place can shape all three of these concepts.
Avasha’s story in this book is concise and understandable, and her stories seem familiar if you also grew up in the Appalachians or spent a long period of time in one of her cities. One of the stories that particularly fascinated me was the story of a family friend who is often considered a grandparent who became a radical right-wing conservative after his wife’s death. Avashia talks about how insulting it was to watch her hate someone who was so dear to her, and how she avoided touching on the subject and hoped for the sweet memories of a man she once knew.
Avashia is not just an Asian, but also a queer, and I felt that those parts of the book that discussed the strangeness and her relationship with her longtime partner, Laura, were my favorite sections. The story of how they came together – two teachers who met because they were interested in helping their students – was really impressive. Avashia writes about growing up, never meeting a gay as a child or at least someone who was on the street. She talks about the childhood game Smear the Queer, not knowing what the phrase means.
When we meet Laura, we also feel like we are meeting the other side of Avashia. At the beginning of the book, we see a strong-willed and confident woman who is not afraid to take over the school district, which, in her opinion, neglects students. When Avashi is tasked with introducing Laura to her family, we witness nervousness and softness we have never seen before.
Throughout the book, we meet with figures of the spiritual life and folklore of India, and draw parallels between the life of Avashi and the lives of these Hindu spiritual figures. These chapters of the book can be seen as a way to educate readers who are unfamiliar with these stories, but they also add prose to the richness that gives parallel stories more depth and texture.
Another Appalachian it’s a story that will stay with you long after you finish reading.
May #CPBookClub Selection
Stop me if you’ve heard this before Brandon Goetz
Brandon Goetz celebrates everything amazing. In his collection of short stories, Stop me if you’ve heard this before (Six Gallery Press), the Pittsburgh writer singles out creatures, spirits, ghosts, robots, superheroes and, according to his website, “the devil himself”.
Goetz says that 12 stories include “strange and speculative elements in everyday life” in the collection of Sam Ligon, author of “Among the Dead and Dreams”, called “a beautiful book of magic and loss.”
Be sure to take a copy Stop me if you’ve heard this before sponsored by #CPBookClub, Riverstone Books, at shop.riverstonebookstore.com or in person at 5825 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill and 8850 Covenant Ave., McCandless, and join the conversation in May Pittsburgh City Newspaper Book Club.