Press release from the Swannanoa Valley Museum:
The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center will host the fourth year of its local interest book club beginning on Monday, April 20. The book club, which has remained popular since its inception in 2017, reads and discusses fiction and nonfiction by local authors on topics of Southern Appalachian culture and history, as well as the Swannanoa Valley. The first book club meeting will take place on April 20 as a webinar through the Zoom teleconference app.
The book club was created by former museum Assistant Director Katherine Cutshall, and is currently hosted by the museum’s current Assistant Director, Saro Lynch-Thomason, and the museum’s new Executive Director, LeAnne Johnson. The group is made up of long time WNC residents and brand new transplants, all eager to chat about the read of the month. Saro, who led many of the book club discussions in 2019, was impressed with the club’s high attendance and passion for local culture: “Many of our book club meetings have as many as 15 or 20 participants. Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia have produced such incredible authors- people like John Ehle, Barbara Kingsolver, and Sharyn McCrumb- and their writing creates very lively discussions in our club. A lot of our books end up tackling contemporary issues- anything from climate change to regional stereotypes- and the book club creates a venue for attendees to talk about their regional experiences of those topics.” In 2020, the book club will meet the second Monday of the month, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., from April to November. Until public gatherings are safe for the local community, all book club events will take place in Zoom conference format, and attendees can register through the museum’s website to participate.
The first book of 2020 is Whistling Woman, authored by sisters Cyndi and Christy Tillery, who will also host the April 20th discussion. Whistling Woman is told from the perspective of Bessie Daniels, the great aunt of the Tillery sisters, as she grows up in late 19th-century Hot Springs, NC. Of Bessie Daniels, the Tillery sisters state, “We were lucky enough to know her when we were kids and blessed to have her and her stories in our life. The book focuses on her late teens/early twenties, a time when she made some of the most important decisions of her young life. Part fact, part fiction, it incorporates the history and folklore of the western North Carolina mountains, the beliefs and medicinal practices of the Cherokee, and many of the stories we grew up hearing.” Whistling Woman is available in e-book format through Amazon.
Other books that will be explored in 2020 include author Lee Smith’s Guests on Earth, a fictional exploration of Zelda Fitzgerald’s death in Asheville in 1948, Living Stories of the Cherokee, by Barbara Duncan, and Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout, an autobiography by award-winning songwriter and Valley resident Billy Edd Wheeler. Book selections for April, May, and June are all available in e-book format on Amazon. SVM staff suggest using Amazon Smile so that a portion of each purchase will support the museum. For those who prefer physical copies, Black Mountain book shop Sassafras-on-Sutton is currently taking book orders and will have books shipped directly to purchasers- learn more at www.sassafrasonsutton.com.
All book club meetings are free, but attendees must register on the museum’s website in order to receive an invitation to Zoom meetings. Attendees can register at www.swannanoavalleymuseum.org/events. Starting in April, the museum will also be hosting its History Cafe Series, a series of lectures on Valley and regional history by local experts. The series will take place in webinar format, and those interested can register on the museum’s website. Book club and History Cafe events will continue to take place online until social distancing practices change, at which point the events will begin to take place at the Swannanoa Valley Museum, at 223 West State Street in Black Mountain.
Meeting dates and works to be discussed are as follows:
- Webinar: Monday, April 20: Whistling Woman, by C.C. Tillery. Guest presentation by the Tillery Sisters.
- Monday, May 11 : Living Stories of the Cherokee by Barbara Duncan
- Monday, June 8: Guests on Earth by Lee Smith
- Monday, July 13: Jane Hicks Gentry: A Sing Among Singers, by Betty Smith. Guest visit by Betty Smith.
- Monday, August 10: Blackberries, Blackberries by Crystal Wilkinson
- Monday, September 14: Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout by Billy Edd Wheeler
- Monday, October 12: An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz