“What do y’all want to be called?”

[Excerpt: When All God’s Children Get Together, “Segregation Woes and New Life Today”]

by Ann Miller Woodford

ann-woodford-wnc-artistAnn Miller Woodford is our guest contributor to this Shelf Life in the Mountains. She is a native of Andrews, NC, and is an author, artist, speaker, and founder/Executive Director of One Dozen Who Care, Inc., a community development organization in western North Carolina.

“What do y’all want to be called?” That used to be a frequent question asked of Black people in the region. Even Blacks still do not agree on what term is offensive, so my advice has been to follow those who research the most inoffensive terms, such as major newscasters. The terms “Colored” and “Negro” went out in the 50s and 60s. However, it must be understood that some older African Americans held on to those terms far too long, since those were much preferred over being called “Nigger,” “Darkie,” “Spook,” “Coon,” “Jungle Bunny,” “Porch Monkey,” “Boy” or “Girl.” The term, “Afro-American” also is becoming antiquated, but “Person of Color,” “African American” and “Black” are still viable terms, if one must distinguish our race of people.

Just as White Appalachians often feel disrespected when typecast as “rednecks,” “hicks,” “country” or other derogatory labels, Affrilachians do not appreciate disparagement by other racial groups, as well. It should be understood that though any group may tease themselves in jest; they do not appreciate others ridiculing them with politically incorrect labels. We should, however, note that the use of “African American” can be applied to a White Native of Africa such as the South African-born actress and activist, Charlize Theron. On the other hand, Black people who are not naturalized citizens of the United States are not African Americans.

We all have the African, Scots Irish, and Cherokee blood that makes up Black Appalachians, because White masters had children by slave women. Some people do not use the term African American, because they know some others choose Black by skin color, or some would rather not be called any racial name; they say just call me human.

The late Rev. Frank Blount of Murphy mentioned that his mother was “left puzzled” by not knowing exactly what her ethnicity was. Mrs. Blount said that as a student at Virginia Union College, people often asked her what she was by race. They also did that to my sister, Mary Alice Miller Worthy, and the One Dozen Who Care, Inc. president, Patricia Hall, in the places where they have worked. All three considered themselves to be African American.

Not many families ever discussed their racial mixture, because it could cause embarrassment, concern, or upset. Folks like my father’s family, though they had the same mother and father, ranged in color from very white skin of his two youngest sisters to the dark brown color of my father’s skin.

“Out of wedlock” children, especially if bi-racial, in past days, were often put down inside and outside of families.

In a taped interview in the late 1960s for a college paper, I came home on holiday and asked the question of some Black people in the Happytop community of Andrews, “What would you rather be called — colored, Negro or Black?” My grandfather, Cleve Miller, an octogenarian at the time whose own mother was a slave until she was nine years old, answered the question in a self-determined way: “African is what I would rather be called!”

During that same time, two of his oldest grown children said that they would rather be called “Colored.” School-age youngsters I interviewed at that time, refused to be called any of those terms.

Since legitimate media reporters, such as, newspaper, radio and television reporters, commentators, and anchor persons must keep up with current terminology, it may be wise to pay attention to any politically correct wording that they use. Most Black people in our region seem to respectfully endure the word “Colored,” although most wonder why it is even a question anymore.

AW Ptg Grampa w sausage mill

Portrait by Ann of William Cleveland “Cleve” Miller, her grandfather

Read Local at Fontana Regional Library

Read Local with Fontana Regional Library
Read Local with Fontana Regional Library

Fontana Regional Library will be hosting its 2nd Annual Read Local Book Fair- this year with 2 events at 2 locations!

Macon County Public Library will host the first event on Saturday, November 7th from 10am-2pm and Jackson County Public Library will host the following weekend on Saturday, November 14th from 10am-2pm. Over 50 local authors will be attending the Read Local Book Fair- meeting the community, reading selections from their works, and selling/autographing copies of their books.

The Read Local Book Fair is an event conceived from the Shop Local and Eat Local movements, which seek to encourage communities to support their local economies. Authors featured at the Fontana Regional Book Fair are all within driving distance of Macon and Jackson County Public Libraries.

If you can’t make it to the Read Local Book Fair, stop in and check out the “Read Local” display at Macon County Public Library or this list of books from our “Read Local Book Fair” authors.

Visit FRL’s website for more information about the “Read Local Book Fair” – including a list of participating authors, reading schedules, and more!

For Short Story Lovers

By Jeff

Here’s a quick literary tidbit:  the modern short story is an art form pretty much developed by American writers.  This is not to say that the first short story was written by an American, far from it.  However, the short (anywhere between 5 and 50 pages), carefully sculpted piece of fiction  that we today call a “short story,” became art because of 19th Century Americans like Poe, Twain and Gilman, and 20th Century writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and O’Connor.

I’m a big fan of the short story.  Although I’ve read short stories throughout my life, I sort of “discovered” them when I first read J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories.  Each of these tiny masterpieces had a huge effect on me.  It was much later, in college as an English major, that I learned about the significance of the short story in American (and World) Literature.   These days I can get my weekly short story “fix” from one magazine.  I have been a subscriber of The New Yorker magazine for about 25 years (with one small break during “the lean years”).  Though  I love to read the in-depth articles and profiles, the “Shouts and Murmurs” humor pieces and the “Critics’ Notebooks,” what I really look forward to is the new short story included in every issue.  Each story is a little gem.  Some are by writers I’ve never heard of, but most are by quite accomplished fiction writers (this week, by the way, a new short story by Haruki Murakami is available, even for non-subcribers).

The New Yorker online also has an amazing Fiction Podcast in which a current writer is asked to choose a classic story from the The New Yorker archives, read it aloud and discuss it.  I’ve been listening to these since they started the series in 2007 (I cannot believe it’s been over four years).  You can listen to Anne Enright read and discuss a  Cheever classic, Orhan Pamuk on Nabokov, or hear a contemporary writer, Junto Diaz, admire the work of another contemporary, Edwidge Danticat.

Another great place to hear a short story read out loud is at Selected Shorts which also has a podcast.  This weekly radio broadcast features celebrated actors reading/performing a great short story.  Here in western North Carolina we can listen each Saturday morning on WCQS.

Of course, you may want to actually read a short story out an actual book.  Well, if this is the case, then Fontana Regional Library has got you covered!  Here’s a short (in no particular order and not in any way comprehensive) list of books of short stories by masters of the form:

Best Place in Town!

By John

Where’s the best place to catch a “FREE movie, or to enjoy a “FREE concert? How about the best place to whet your appetite for a little action on the internet,  or quench your thirst by reading another wild, exotic, action packed adventure! How about a place to do that last minute studying with a buddy? Did I mention a cool relaxing environment to take a breather from the hectic pace, and this heat wave? That’s right, I’m talking about our local library.

For the last six months the FRL IT Services department has been visiting each of the local libraries. Mind you it wasn’t for catching a movie, although the Hudson Library’s newly renovated program room has the primo setup for it. We couldn’t help but peek in on some banjo picking and fiddle playing happening in Macon County Public Library’s meeting room. Some of our best lunch hours were spent just relaxing and watching the critters in, on, and around the pond while we sat in the quiet, peaceful “friendship garden” of the Cashiers Community Library. Marianna Black Library has the largest playroom, even if it’s called the “Auditorium” where we spent several of our lunches playing video games! Nantahala Community Library, where we’ve had to get up against walls to get out of the way of the patrons. For such a small library, it seems to be the hub of activity for that community.  Recently we’ve enjoyed our lunches on the balcony of the NEW Jackson County Public Library enjoying the vista of Pinnacle, and for today, listening to a live jazz ensemble performance.

Well, enough of what we’ve done during our lunch periods. What we’ve done during our work hours has had just a profound impact as all the events we’ve encompassed. The end result is using new technological capabilities to enhance the services to our patrons in all our libraries, large and small. To bring that service, available at one library to all our libraries, old and new.  Each of our libraries can now provide our patrons with the same computer time and reservation system, the same print management system, the same wireless laptops and netbooks, and the same wireless printing capability for their laptop. Other than the physical location and size of our libraries, our patrons will find little difference other than the personal touches of that community.

But let’s give credit where the credit is really due. All the planning involved with this humungous project was dependent upon our library staff. Which library in particular? All of them, from their technical services staff, reference and adult services staff, to their circulation and youth services staff, to the folks in some mystical place called “headquarters” land of automation, outreach, finance, human resources, and cataloging services. It was their ideas, suggestions, and comments that created the fuel for the fire, the lumber for the building. As with any large group of people with many voices trying to be heard at one time, a consultant was brought in to refine those ideas into a framework of goals and strategies for our IT Technology plan. From this plan we’ve been focusing on each and every goal and strategy to get to the point of starting this project.  It has taken us the last ten months of preparation to run cables, put together and configure networks, servers, access points, wireless gateways, and mobile computers to the implementation of all those pieces and then working out the little bugs at each library to finally say the project is complete. From the IT Services department we thank you, because it’s with your involvement that our libraries are indeed the best place in town!

Horace Kephart – Writer, Outdoorsman, National Park Activist…Librarian?

By Jeff

This past weekend in Bryson City, the town celebrated the life of  Horace Kephart (1862-1931), who made Swain County his home away from home.  Kephart, for those who don’t know, was the writer of Our Southern Highlanders (1913) and Camping and Woodcraft (1918), two works that are, after nearly a century, still in print.  Kephart Days, as the celebration has been called for the past three years, features noted historians, outdoorsmen, musicians, a luncheon, “interpretive camping” (don’t ask me, I missed this one) and more.

Kephart, who was known as “Kep” to his local friends, was instrumental, along with photographer George Masa,  in getting the Great Smoky Mountains a name change – adding the words “National Park” to its title.  The struggles to create this national park has been documented in many places, but most recently in Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea series (episode four) on PBS.

Though Kephart is now revered for his many accomplishments, I proudly remind folks (those who will listen) that before he was the “Dean of American Camping,” he had humble beginnings as an academic and LIBRARIAN.  To be honest, humble beginnings doesn’t really paint an accurate picture of his first profession, he was actually quite ambitious.  He was a librarian at both Cornell and Yale before accepting a position as the head the St. Louis Mercantile Library – a major American research library – in 1890 (all this before he reached the age of 30).

If you are interested in learning more about Horace Kephart and his accomplishments, many of his writings can be found in our libraries.  Also during the month of May, the Marianna Black Library’s display case will be filled with rare books (including a first edition print of Our Southern Highlanders) and artifacts (including Horace Kephart’s own Snake-stick).  And if you’re going to make a trip to Bryson City to see the display, you should also make the short trip from the library to the Bryson City cemetery to see Kephart’s grave (which identifies him as a “scholar, author and outdoorsman,” but misses the “L” word).

One last thing, and this is not Kephart related, if you are and artist or craftsperson or have a collection you’d like to see in one of our library display cases, please be sure to talk to your local librarian.  We are always looking for interesting pieces to display.

A Desperate Note From The Grave

It turns out that writing a monumental novel is surprisingly easy. (Photo courtesy of vince42)

By Luke

By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.

Not really. I just always wanted to start a story that way.

What would be really cool is if, immediately after this is posted, an old lady in an SUV backs over me in the parking lot of the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library and drives away, oblivious.

That’d make a dandy Twilight Zone episode, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, as you can tell, my long-awaited mystery novel is off to a great start. All I need is an additional 75,000 words and, not meaning to seem immodest, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a pretty good chance of capturing an Edgar Award (and possibly a Pulitzer).

A quick survey shows that most of the memorable novels on the shelves of the Fontana Regional Library System begin with absolute corker first lines.

Consider these gems (for more, check out amenninger’s masterful April 10, 2010 blogpost “It was a dark and stormy night”):

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.” — A River Runs Through It by Norman MacLean

“”When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.” — The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley
“Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.” Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” — I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
“Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.” — Middle Passage by Charles Johnson
“Francis Marion Tarwater’s uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.” — The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

“I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I am old, and you said, I don’t think you are old. And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren’t very old, as if that settled it.” — Gilead by Marilyn Robinson

“It was the day my Grandmother exploded.” — The Crow Road by Iain Banks
“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler.” — If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
“”He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead.” — The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
If your writing is so bad that a busy author can’t be bothered to reply, whose fault is that? (Photo courtesy of Fabi Dorighello)

Seeing how I’m practically guaranteed a major literary award, perhaps you’d like for your own work to be evaluated by a talented author. Send me your own chapters based on the exciting premise: “By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.”

If you can’t read this, it might be too small

By Sarah

Do you find yourself squinting to read your favorite novels?  Perhaps you know someone who hasn’t picked up a book for a while because the print is too hard for them.  If this sounds familiar, might I suggest trying out Fontana Regional Library’s Large Print books?

With Large Print books, the type is truly big.  The font is usually a minimum 16-point and can be even larger.  With quality Large Print books, the paper that is used is chosen because of its high opacity and contrast against the dark ink.  These characteristics combined make for clear, easy reading for people with vision problems.  I’ve even been told by some of our patrons that they like the Large Print books for when they walk on their treadmill or ride an exercise bike at home – the format allows them to bounce around but still keep their place as they read!  (Why waste precious time on just exercising when you can exercise and read at the same time?)

Which one is easier to read?
Large print text on the left; regular print on the right.

Fontana Regional Library’s Large Print sections harbor over 6,500 titles.  From the classics to biographies to contemporary romance, the selections run the gamut.  Here’s just a sampling of some of the books that we’ve added to our Large Print collections in the past year.



Next time you’re at your local branch, you might want to ask a staff member to point you in the direction of the Large Print collection.  Once you pick up a book from this section, you’ll be able to see the difference yourself!

Trust me.

ps: If you’re squinting to read this or another site, try pressing Ctrl + (your control and plus sign buttons) at the same time to magnify the font!  Ctrl – will make it a size smaller when you’re done.

Bryson City

By Faye

A plane just crashed in the mountainous area of Alarka in Swain County. All eighty eight people on board are presumed dead. Numerous body parts are discovered around the perimeter of the plane.

No, this is not a news flash but the topic of Kathy Reichs’ book Fatal Voyage.

If you are familiar with Bryson City you will recognize many of the places and people mentioned in this excellent book.

Kathy is just one in many that has written about Swain County.

We also have many local authors:

Renea Winchester is a native who just published, In the Garden with Billy. This nonfiction story is about friendship with Billy Albertson a 77-year-old goat farmer.

George Ellison and Elizabeth Ellison form an outstanding team as author and illustrator in several books. One of my favorites is Blue Ridge Nature Notes: Selections from Blue Ridge Nature Journal.

The three volumes of Bryson City Tales by Walter Larimore rarely stay on the shelf at the library. These are stories of his career as a small town doctor in Bryson City.

Swain County also has it share of movies filmed here. The latest one is Road to Nowhere, directed by Monte Hellman. No, it’s not about the controversial road issue. It is a romantic thriller starring  Shannyn Sossamon, and Dominique Swain. You may recognize scenes of the old Swain County jail that was recently demolished, the tunnel, cemeteries and Fontana Lake.

My Fellow Americans, starring James Garner and Jack Lemmon, is an excellent movie to watch. Nantahala Land of the Noonday Sun and Hiking on Hazel Creek are also great movies to watch about the area.

For a complete listing  of these and so many more check out the Swain County Chamber of Commerce page.