NESSIE WHISPERER: "The monster in the loch is everyone's internal monster," says Asheville-based author Sara Gruen. "What you do with it is what defines you." Her new novel is set in World War II near Loch Ness and deals with monsters real and imaginary. Photo by Tasha Thomas

Local author Sara Gruen pens an all-consuming new novel

Author Sara Gruen gets lost in her books. “I wasn’t able to immerse myself completely with Water for Elephants,” she says of her 2006 best-seller that became a film starring Reese Witherspoon. “The type of circus I was writing about no longer existed.” For her new book, Gruen spent a total of five weeks in the British Isles, researching, absorbing the culture and immersing herself — literally.

Migrant farmworker mother with child. Photo courtesy of BRCHS

Blue Ridge Community Health Services honors Farmworker Awareness Week with shirt drive

Blue Ridge Community Health Services is one of several organizations participating in National Farmworker Awareness Week, which runs from March 24 through March 27. The national campaign was started by Student Action with Farmworkers to bring attention to the unsafe working conditions and low wages that face many agricultural workers.

“We're trying to integrate both cultural and traditional knowledge, as well as build a sense of ownership for the kids over growing their own food and their own health,” says Katie Rainwater of Cherokee Central School and FoodCorps. “The best way to do that is to get dirty.”

Empowermen­t from the Earth: Reclaiming Cherokee health and heritage

Cherokee is a community in flux. Decadeslong high poverty and unemployment rates are beginning to decline, but access to healthy food remains limited and cultural values seem to be changing. “It’s Western civilization versus our traditional Cherokee ways,” say community leaders. But community efforts are using gardens to reconnect the Cherokee people to local food, health and a collective heritage defined by knowledge of the earth.