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.