Appalachia may be the most mythologized and misunderstood place in America, its way of life and inhabitants both caricatured and celebrated in the mainstream media. Over generations, though, the families living in the mountainous region stretching from West Virginia to northeastern Alabama have forged one of the country's richest and most distinctive cultures, encompassing music, food, architecture, customs, and language.
In Appalachian Folkways, geographer John Rehder offers an engaging and enlightening account of southern Appalachia and its cultural milieu that is at once sweeping and intimate. From architecture and traditional livelihoods to beliefs and art, Rehder, who has spent thirty years studying the region, offers a nuanced depiction of southern Appalachia's social and cultural identity. The book opens with an expert consideration of the southern Appalachian landscape, defined by mountains, rocky soil, thick forests, and plentiful streams. While these features have shaped the inhabitants of the region, Rehder notes, Appalachians have also shaped their environment, and he goes on to explore the human influence on the landscape.
From physical geography, the book moves to settlement patterns, describing the Indian tribes that flourished before European settlement and the successive waves of migration that brought Melungeon, Scotch-Irish, English, and German settlers to the region, along with the cultural contributions each made to what became a distinct Appalachian culture. Next focusing on the folk culture of Appalachia, Rehder details such cultural expressions as architecture and landscape design; traditional and more recent ways of making a living, both legal and illegal; foodstuffs and cooking techniques; folk remedies and belief systems; music, art, and the folk festivals that today attract visitors from around the world; and the region's dialect. With its broad scope and deep research, Appalachian Folkways accurately and evocatively chronicles a way of life that is fast disappearing.
About the Author
John B. Rehder is a professor of geography at the University of Tennessee. His previous book, Delta Sugar: Louisiana's Vanishing Plantations, won the Vernacular Architecture Forum's 2000 Abbott Lowell Cummings Award and is also available from Johns Hopkins.
"Rehder obviously loves Appalachia and seeks to present it honestly, completely and positively. "
"Rehder's book is one of the best about Appalachia... A very good and accurate reference for persons interested in the region and in cultural geography in general."
"An important work that must be read by anyone interested in developing a comprehensive knowledge of southern Appalachia."
"An enjoyable and enlightening excursion through the cultural geography of Southern Appalachia."
"An informative and entertaining look into the 'culture hearth' of the southern Appalachian Mountains... a distinctive cultural center in America."
"An engaging book to read... I plan to use this book the next time I teach my course on the Sociology of Appalachian Culture."
"In this comprehensive, in-depth look at the distinct cultural region of Southern Appalachia, Rehder emphasizes that the mosaic of identities present in Southern Appalachia cannot be generalized."
"Rehder's book is one of the best about Appalachia... A very good and accurate reference for persons interested in the region and in cultural geography."
"Rehder obviously loves Appalachia and seeks to present it honestly, completely and positively."
"Rehder demonstrates an honest curiosity and a heart-felt appreciation of rural lifeways, which enrich his study and add to its popular appeal."
"An intriguing regional geography."
"Readers looking for an encyclopedic, detailed and well-researched account of cultural traits... sprinkled with Rehder's anecdotes and colorful language, will benefit greatly."
"A valuable contribution to Appalachian literature."
"I assign the book for my 'Geography of Appalachia' course because of its many strengths."
"Packed with information about the people, culture, and environment of this mountainous region of America... lovingly written and one that was long thought out and researched."
"Appalachian Folkways is very comprehensive and abundantly reveals John Rehder's profound depth of expertise on this region. No such comprehensive study of Appalachian folklife presently exists, nor do any older works achieve this breadth of coverage. Expertise leaps from every page."
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