By Parks Lanier, Jr. © 1983
Issue: October, 1983
There is no more eloquent speaker on behalf of the mountains, their people and their special beauties, than novelist and historian Wilma Dykeman. And there is no better introduction to the fiction and history of the mountain region than her work.
Her Rivers of American History The French Broad begins in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina at the headwaters of the French Broad, and sweeps northwest into Tennessee. Along the way, one receives the fascinating history of the mountain people told in a familiar, anecdotal style but with absolute accuracy. Material that would never be found in an ordinary American history book, or would be lost in a footnote, makes a spellbinding chapter when Wilma Dykeman handles it. Where else would learn, for example, about the great hog drives across the mountains? No wonder this book has never been out of print since it appeared in 1955. The University of Tennessee Press in Knoxville now handles the distribution.
Now back in print in a large format paperback edition is Wilma Dykeman’s most popular novel The Tall Woman (1962). Set in the mountains during and after the Civil War, the novel is a story of reconstruction. Lydia McQueen works to reconstruct her life, the life of her family, and the life of her community in the aftermath of that dark and bitter time when the war among mountain people was truly “a war of brothers.” The book is rich with mountain customs, folklore, and crafts. Just to read a description of a lavish meal is enough to make you hungry even if you have just eaten. All the book lacks is a recipe section for duplicating the mouth-watering delicacies Wilma describes.
Autographed copies of The Tall Woman are available directly from Wilma Dykeman at 405 Clifton Heights, Newport, Tennessee 37821 for $10.95 postpaid.
A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Wilma grew up in Thomas Wolfe country (Wolfe’s sister introduced her to her future husband, James R. Stokely). She lives now in Newport, Tennessee, not far from Knoxville (James Agee country) where she writes a regular column for the Knoxville News Sentinel and is visiting professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
With her late husband, she was co-author of The Border States, published in the Time-Life Library of America. With her son Jim she wrote Highland Home: The People of the Great Smokies and with her son Dykeman she did the text for the lavish Appalachian Mountains, with photographs by Clyde H. Smith. She wrote the Bicentennial History of Tennessee, a handsome Norton paperback, and With Fire and Sword: The Battle of Kings Mountain, 1780. Presently, she is at work on her fourth novel, one eagerly awaited by her readers in the hills, the valleys, and around the world.