Author, banjoist Jeremy B. Jones to perform, speak Sept. 25

By Haywood County Library | Aug 26, 2014

Author and banjoist Jeremy B. Jones will play the banjo and discuss his new book, "Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland," at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, at the Canton Branch Library.

Jones grew up in southern Appalachia, where his family has been haunting the mountains since the 18th century. Like the generations before him, Jones spent much of his childhood in the shadow of Bearwallow Mountain in Henderson County, an ever-present peak, floating in the distance. In Bearwallow, Jones turns his attention to the complex and rich world of his Appalachian past and to understanding how this landscape shaped his own identity.

“In part, I set out to write this book to answer: How am I mountain people?” Jones said. “I wanted to understand how the land and landscape affects people — crafts their identities, peppers their music, shapes their cultures. I also wanted to complicate the vision sometimes presented about Appalachia and its people. It is a far more diverse and complicated place than is presented often in movies and TV shows.”

Thus, Jones set out on a search that sent him burrowing into the past — hunting buried treasure and POW camps, unearthing Civil War graves and family feuds, exploring gated communities and tourist traps, encountering changed accents and immigrant populations, tracing Wal-Mart’s sidewalks and carved-out mountains — and pondering the future.

Throughout his book, Jones meshes narrative and myth, geology and genealogy, fiddle tunes and local color about the briskly changing and oft-stigmatized world of his native southern Appalachians. By doing so, he explores not only the story of his own heritage but also simplistic conceptions of Appalachia and its people. His journey back to the mystical Bearwallow Mountain reveals a peak suddenly in flux.

As he seeks to understand how the places we call home shape us, unify us, and craft our cultures, he questions the foundation for our identities — How are we marked by the places we call home?

Renowned author Ron Rash says of Bearwallow, “Jeremy Jones shows the complexity of a region and a people too often reduced to the crudest of stereotypes, and by doing so gains even greater self-awareness. 'Bearwallow' is a book to be savored.”

For more information, call 648-2924. The event is free to attend thanks to the generous support of the Friends of the Library. Copies of "Bearwallow" will be available for purchase.