A Traveler’s Tale

Illustration by Natalie Nelson.

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A Traveler’s Tale

by Karida L. Brown
Southern Cultures, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Here/Away)

“So crucial are these battles over this place that we have made war—and monuments, songs, stories, and quilts to give it meaning. Southern history—past, present, and future—is still being made.”

When I received the invitation to serve as guest editor for this twenty-fifth anniversary Here/Away special issue of Southern Cultures, I was far, far away. You see, I was trying to be fancy. My book Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia had just been published by the University of North Carolina Press, and in keeping with the unhealthy “What have you done for me lately?” publish-or-perish academic culture, I was already in search of my next research project. Gone Home was a labor of love. It is a study about mass migration, Blackness, Appalachia, race, identity formation, and the human condition; and, most important to me, it is a beautiful story about a group of people with whom I share roots—Blackalachians. Gone Home was so deeply nestled in the hollers of eastern Kentucky that, after nearly seven years of interviewing, researching, and writing for the project, I wanted to get away.