Describe your contribution/work in the Appalachian region.
I am a writer and independent researcher from Columbiana County, Ohio. My research interests include eco-poetics, folklore, and modern mourning practices among Northern Appalachians. I have published a number of poems about my home county and am currently working on a book chapter discussing the Kent State Massacre.
What is your perception of Appalachia?
Appalachia is a complex place of great beauty that has been terribly exploited by extractive industries. I also feel it is quite misunderstood and often painted with some very broad strokes by outsiders.
Is change needed internally within Appalachia regarding our culture’s self-perception?
I believe that we need to develop as much self-awareness as possible. It is very easy to internalize outsider stereotypes and sometimes I find that people lean into these stereotypes in lieu of actively developing an authentic identity. I also believe that it helps to identify and cultivate regional identities within Appalachia – for example, people living in Northern Appalachian have a distinctly different identity than folks living in the South. While we all face similar challenges and should unite, I believe it helps to understand the immediate needs of each specific region.
How do we challenge damaging stereotypes of Appalachia?
By contributing our voices and lending an authentic perspective within the media and within local government, among many other institutions and areas of discourse.
How does your region of Appalachia inspire you?
Columbiana County is a stunningly beautiful place with a rich history of both abolitionism and women’s rights. This history doesn’t exactly reflect the current culture of the place but it definitely inspired me when I was growing up. I also was lucky to grow up with some truly wonderful people and my hometown of Salem, Ohio has a very strong sense of community.