Holding her Grandmother’s Book

Yesterday before picking up my friend Cami from the airport I recorded a radio program for “Inside Appalachia.”

During the interview, the strange relationship between bookstores and fires came up. Most rural bookstores owners will be familiar with this phenomenon: one of the first things people replace after a house fire, once they have the basics covered, is their beloved childhood books. It was a shock, the first time a man who looked stronger than the mountains surrounding us got red about the eyes as we handed him a replacement copy of Beautiful Joe. “Had it since I was eight,” he said. “Stole it from the school library ’cause I liked it so much.”

Wayne, the radio host, laughed at this story, then nodded. “You know, the other day my daughter was looking through our bookcase, and she pulled out some books of my mom’s, things she sent us before she died, that she’d had since she was a little girl. And my daughter was just idly leafing through one of them, and I got a catch in my throat. There was something so wonderful, seeing that, her grandmother leaving this trail. They’re just objects, but objects that contain thoughts that inspired my mom all her life. And it never would have occurred to me to be that sentimental about them, but yeah, I wouldn’t have missed that moment for the world.”


(If you want to hear the “Inside Appalachia” interview, it airs the week of Sept. 28; check your local station, or visit the WETS website for live streaming on the day. Don’t forget caption contest VI is under August 29 if you want to enter, and Big Stone Celtic Festival is Sept. 22; come one, come all!)



Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, small town USA

2 responses to “Holding her Grandmother’s Book

  1. Tamra Igo

    This is a real heart tugger for me. We had a house fire 4/17/10, losing approximately 75-80% of our home and our belongings. Much of what was remaining was ruined by fire, water, and heat. We boxed up our books along with everything else that was left and moved into an apartment for several months until our insurance company could replace our home. Opening up those boxes and finding our books again was like running into old and wonderful friends we hadn’t seen in a long time – and so it was. I have several books that should probably be trashed: crinkly edges from water, dark stains from smoke, edges black and dusty. But I can’t do it. They’re my books. They may be damaged, they may not be perfect, but they’re my books.

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