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Authors Rash & Eller Honored for Books about Appalachia

Ron Rash’s novel ”Serena” and Ronald D Eller’s historical narrative “Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945” were recently named the winners of the W.D. Weatherford Awards, which recognize outstanding books published in 2008 related to Southern Appalachia.

The Appalachian Studies Association together with Berea College present the Weatherford Award annually to the authors of “one fiction work and one non-fiction work which best illuminates the challenges, personalities, and unique qualities of the Appalachian South.” The conferring of this annual $500 award has come to be recognized as a major Appalachian event. The awards were announced at the recent 2009 Appalachian Studies Conference held at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Established and supported for 19 years by the late Alfred Perrin, retired publications director of Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, the award commemorates the life and achievements of W.D. Weatherford, Sr., a pioneer and leading figure for many years in Appalachian development, youth work and race relations, and of his son, Willis D. Weatherford, Jr., late Berea College President. For more on the award visit www.berea.edu/appalachiancenter.

“Serena,” published in October 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers, is Ron Rash’s fourth novel. Set against the backdrop of the wilderness of 1920s North Carolina and America’s burgeoning environmental movement, ”Serena” is a tightly knit tale of industrial development, greed, and betrayal.

A native of Boiling Springs, N.C., Rash has published three collections of poetry, three short story collections, and four novels, all to wide critical acclaim and several awards and honors. His poems and stories have appeared in more than 100 magazines and journals over the years.

Rash’s 2002 novel, “One Foot in Eden” was named Appalachian Book of the Year. His second novel, “Saints at the River,” was named Fiction Book of the Year by both the Southern Book Critics Circle and the Southeastern Booksellers Association. It also won the 2004 Weatherford Award in fiction.

In addition to being a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award, Rash has received an NEA Poetry Fellowship and is a past winner of the Sherwood Anderson Prize, the O. Henry Award, and the James Still Award conferred by the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He holds a master’s degree in English from Clemson University, and now occupies the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University.

Ronald D Eller, associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky and the former director of UK’s Appalachian Center, is the author of “Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880¬–1930,” which was awarded the 1982 Weatherford Award in non-fiction. Eller is a noted historian and Appalachian scholar who has worked closely with local leaders, state policy makers, social justice organizations, and national planners over a forty-year career.

“Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945,”published in October 2008 by the University Press of Kentucky, takes up the narrative of Appalachian history begun by his earlier work and serves as a sweeping historical account of the political, environmental, and economic realities of the second half of the twentieth century. Within this work Eller examines a half century of local, state, and federal antipoverty policies and explains their shortcomings, showing how they are manipulated in an arena of corporate greed and political corruption, leading to environmental degradation.

“Uneven Ground” discredits many popular myths about Appalachian life and history and challenges the assumptions about growth that have shaped development programs in rural communities. Eller also analyzes the environmental and human costs of these programs and illuminates the sacrifices that Appalachian communities make for the comfort and prosperity of the rest of the nation.

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