Although most of the old slurs against ethnic groups are gladly gone, one can still make jokes about hillbilly rednecks with impunity. In the only way damaging stereotypes can be repudiated—replacing them with complex human beings—Joyce Dyer has performed a service for Appalachian people everywhere; she has conscientiously collected the voices of thirty-five intelligent, articulate women who know the region and love it in BLOODROOT: REFLECTIONS ON PLACE BY APPALACHIAN WOMEN WRITERS.
A number of well-known writers are represented here: Nikki Giovanni recounts an emotional return to her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee; Jayne Anne Phillips describes going to the movie theater in Buckhannon, West Virginia; and Jean Ritchie talks about the source of her writing and music in Viper, Kentucky.
However, most of the women in this honest and moving collection are little known outside their own region. That is unfortunate, for all are writers who, even as they draw much of their inspiration from a sense of place, escape narrow regionalism. Many, such as George Ella Lyon, Rita Simms Quillen, Anne Shelby, Artie Ann Bates, and Sharyn McCrumb, have been associated with the Hindman Settlement School Appalachian Writers’ Workshop, an institution responsible for nurturing writers from the hills of Eastern Kentucky and elsewhere for a number of years.
The writers in Dyer’s collection do not exploit the quaint, the marginalized, and the exotic, as do so many outsiders, who, seeking to board the bandwagon of the multicultural fad, condescendingly venerate those they little understand. Instead, in voices that are honest and true, these women celebrate the rich cultural mother lode of the Appalachians.