The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Blue Ridge Bookshelf - February, 1984

By Parks Lanier, Jr. © 1984

Issue: February, 1984

One of last year’s most surprising, and most wonderful Appalachian publications appeared in Montana. STEP AROUND THE MOUNTAIN (Seven Buffaloes Press, Box 249, Big Timber, Montana 29011. 75 pages, $4.35 postpaid) contains the work of forty-three regional writers, fiction and poetry. Taking its title from a quilt pattern, the book has all the charm, warmth, and durability of a homemade quilt. The credit’s page reads like a who’s who of Appalachian writers, including a lot of younguns just getting their start. Everything is first rate here.

Collections of this size rarely capture the full range of the Appalachian experience, but all the stances are here, reflected in the book’s five sections. “Hill and Holler Portraits” has my favorite, Bettie Sellers’ “Eunice Claims the Star of Bethlehem,” with sisters squabbling over Mama’s quilts. “From Darkness They Came” is a section honoring coal miners. “And He Walked With Me” is, of course, about religion, but with a wry twist. The final section “Home Place,” convinces us that home is as much a state of mind as geographic locale. There’s even a humor section.

So successful was this venture that Art Cuelho is readying a companion volume, reprising some of the writers but introducing many new ones such as Sharon McCrumb from Blacksburg with a powerful story called “Precious Jewel.” It’s due out March 1984.

These collections are published in a series called Black Jack 12 and 13 respectively. Seven Buffaloes Press offers a Black Jack package for $11.24 (discount price) including Step Around the Mountain, Family Traditions, One Day a Hawk Came By, and In the People of the Land. Art Cuelho also publishes a quarterly review of books with royal emphasis, HARD ROW TO HOE ($3.00 for four issues).

I’m really impressed that someone so far away loves this land and its writers so much. STEP AROUND THE MOUNTAIN is a great introduction to the contemporary mountain muses, and a “must have” for any library of regional literature. Copies are getting scarce, so order now, and also reserve the next volume too.