By Jeff Mann
“A unique testimonial to the role of place in defining the self. No other author considered here captures both the pains and joys of being Appalachian so adeptly....”
Journal of Appalachian Studies
“A persistent theme is the familiar Appalachian love of the land and of traditional folkways. Through Mann’s eyes, we see those features, and Appalachian masculinity, anew....”
West Virginia History
"The sheer beauty of the prose in the memoir and the language of the poetry is incredible. This is one of the great watershed books of Appalachian literature. Its contribution to the fields of Appalachian studies and gay/gender studies is significant."
Danny L. Miller, coeditor of An American Vein: Critical Readings in Appalachian Literature
Loving Mountains, Loving Men is the first book-length treatment of a topic rarely discussed or examined: gay life in Appalachia. Appalachians are known for their love of place, yet many gays and lesbians from the mountains flee to urban areas. Jeff Mann tells the story of one who left and then returned, who insists on claiming and celebrating both regional and erotic identities.
In memoir and poetry, Mann describes his life as an openly gay man who has remained true to his mountain roots. Mann recounts his upbringing in Hinton, a small town in southern West Virginia, as well as his realization of his homosexuality, his early encounters with homophobia, his coterie of supportive lesbian friends, and his initial attempts to escape his native region in hopes of finding a freer life in urban gay communities. Mann depicts his difficult search for a romantic relationship, the family members who have given him the strength to defy convention, his anger against religious intolerance and the violence of homophobia, and his love for the rich folk culture of the Highland South.
His character and values shaped by the mountains, Mann has reconciled his homosexuality with both traditional definitions of Appalachian manhood and his own attachment to home and kin. Loving Mountains, Loving Men is a compelling, universal story of making peace with oneself and the wider world.
Jeff Mann is a professor of creative writing at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia. He is the author of a collection of poetry, Bones Washed with Wine, and a memoir, Edge.
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The blossoming of Appalachian studies began some thirty years ago. Thousands of young people from the hills have since been made aware of their region's rich literary tradition through high school and college courses. An entire generation has discovered that their own landscapes, families, and communities had been truthfully portrayed by writers whose background was similar to their own.
Meredith Sue Willis’s Out of the Mountains is a collection of thirteen short stories set in contemporary Appalachia. Firmly grounded in place, the stories voyage out into the conflicting cultural identities that native Appalachians experience as they balance mainstream and mountain identities.
Contemporaries were shocked when author Mary Noailles Murfree revealed she was a woman, but modern readers may be more surprised by her cogent discussion of community responses to unwanted development. Effie Waller Smith, an African American woman writing of her love for the Appalachian mountains, wove discussions of women's rights, racial tension, and cultural difference into her Appalachian poetry.
In a thoughtful, humorous voice born of Appalachian storytelling, Childers brings to life family tales that affected the entire region to make sense of her personal journey and find the joy and clarity that often emerge after the earth shakes terribly beneath us.