Inside the anthology Red Holler, with editors John E. Branscum and Wayne Thomas:
Appalachia is a symbol for American dispossession. Wayne Thomas and I decided this a couple of years ago while driving back to Tennessee from Washington D.C. How else to account for the profusion of TV series, movies and books about the region in the wake of the 00s’ social and economic crises? This interest though, we decided, was still overshadowed by a century-old stereotype of Appalachia as the hollered home of backwards, quilt-obsessed and banjo-plucking Caucasians. The things we loved the most about Appalachia were barely discussed. There was its underexplored racial and ethnic diversity, which the Affrilachian poets had been performing for years. There was its unique environmental consciousness, which frequently bloomed into a closely-observed, mystical and animistic sense of nature. There was its geographical diversity, which overturned neat distinctions between red and blue states and North and South, and resulted in a culture that encompassed not just small towns, but trailer parks, housing projects, and such progressive cities as Pittsburgh. There was its worldview which uniquely melded gritty keep-it-real naturalism and working-class magical realism. Above all, there was the passion and hard-headedness of its people, with their surrealistic black humor and allegiance to a DIY anti-authoritarian culture suspicious of the rule of middle-class law and etiquette. These were cool things, important things, which made for exciting literature.
By the time we finished talking, we felt exhilarated. One of said, “Somebody should do a book of the great Appalachian literature that speaks to all this.” Then we paused, looked at each other, thought a minute, and chimed almost simultaneously, “We should.” And we did.
Red Holler takes us beyond the stock imagery of rural Appalachian communities. We travel into housing projects, forest-stripped ravines, and trailer high-rises. The anthology spans ten years and the mountain range from Mississippi to New York, Native American myth, African American urban legend, folk culture, and European ghost stories, placing fresh new voices alongside widely known and celebrated authors.