A New American Vein: Critical Essays on Contemporary Appalachian Literature

deadline for submissions: 
August 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Nicole Drewitz-Crockett and Zackary Vernon
contact email: 

A New American Vein: 

Critical Essays on Contemporary Appalachian Literature


Scholarly Collection: Call for Contributions


Editors: Nicole Drewitz-Crockett and Zackary Vernon


Ohio University Press’s release of An American Vein: Critical Readings in Appalachian Literature in 2005 was a watershed moment in regional studies. The first volume of its kind, An American Vein claimed new ground in literary criticism, confirming and coalescing scholarly understandings of major Appalachian literary texts. In doing so, it laid the foundation for additional volumes of criticism to follow. A New American Vein: Critical Essays on Contemporary Appalachian Literature is one such response.


In recent decades, Appalachian literature has continued to be in the national spotlight in both productive and problematic ways. For example, some in the media attempted to use J.D. Vance’s now infamous Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis to explain the region during the era of Trump. In Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll’s edited collection, Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, activists, writers, and scholars pushed back, roundly critiquing Vance for peddling simplistic, monolithic stereotypes. Other more accurate examples include numerous groundbreaking, award-winning, and bestselling novels about Appalachia, such as Ann Pancake’s Strange as this Weather Has Been, Jessie van Eerdan’s Call It Horses, Joselyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello, Robert Gipe’s Trampoline, Crystal Wilkinson’s Birds of Opulence, Charles Dodd White’s In the House of Wilderness, Silas House’s Southernmost, Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, Carter Sickels’s The Prettiest Star, and many others. Likewise, Appalachian poetry has continued its trajectory as a primary voice for and about the region with works like bell hooks’s Appalachian Elegy, Maurice Manning’s The Common Man, Richard Hague’s During the Recent Extinctions, Rita Sims Quillen’s Some Notes You Hold, Jesse Graves’s Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine, and Diane Gilliam’s Kettle Bottom.


There have also been exciting explosions of diversity in and multicultural representations of the region that have expanded the way many think about the canon of Appalachian literature. Excellent anthologies such as Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia, Black Bone: 25 Years of Affrilachian Poets, and LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia have played a primary role in widening our view. Nonfiction works like Neema Avashia’s Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place, Jim Minick’s The Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family, and Karen Salyer McElmurray’s Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother’s Journey have brought individual lived experiences to the fore; and community theater, particularly Higher Ground in eastern Kentucky, has reinvigorated interest in drama. Finally, Steven Stoll’s Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia has raised the question of Appalachia itself: how we think about its history and why.


Scholarship on Appalachian literature, however, has not kept up with this literary outpouring, except in a few monographs and periodic articles in venerable publications like Appalachian Journal and The Iron Mountain Review. The field of Appalachian literary studies now needs another centralized assessment of the current state of the field, as well as possible new directions for its future. A New American Vein seeks to fill this gap by creating a collection that represents scholarly views on contemporary Appalachian literature and reevaluations of foundational Appalachian literary works that utilize cutting-edge critical approaches.

Because this collection will chart new directions for the field, we are particularly interested in rigorous, theoretical essays that will appeal to multiple audiences and open new avenues of critical inquiry across disciplines. To this end, we seek essays that address a broad range of topics. This list is not exhaustive, but we invite contributions on the following topics in conjunction with contemporary Appalachian literature (broadly defined as fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and drama): 

  • Activism, especially racial, social, and environmental justice efforts

  • Race (Affrilachian Poets, BIPOC writers and communities in the region)

  • Indigeneity and Native American history

  • Disability studies

  • Class and labor

  • Gender studies

  • Feminism 

  • Sexuality and LGBTQ+ studies

  • Environmental Studies (ecocriticism, ecofeminism, queer ecology, ecosexuality, bioregionalism)

  • Green capitalism and ecotourism

  • Climate change

  • Resource extraction, particularly the coal and fracking industries

  • The opioid, meth, and substance use epidemic 

  • Nuclear energy and nuclear weapons production

  • Animal studies

  • Agriculture, foodways, and food studies

  • Critical regionalisms

  • Comparative/international mountain studies

  • Film adaptations of Appalachian novels

  • New theoretical approaches to established/canonical Appalachian writers

  • Contemporary Appalachian writers in relation to established/canonical ones


Please send 500-word abstracts and brief bios to Nicole Drewitz-Crockett (ncrockett@cn.edu) and Zackary Vernon (vernonzd@appstate.edu) by August 15, 2023. Contributors will be notified by September 15, and completed essays of 5,000 words will be due by January 15, 2024. All are welcome to submit, both those who are new to or established in the field. In particular, we invite proposals by underrepresented scholars or about underrepresented literatures. Ohio University Press is keenly interested in publishing this collection as a follow-up to An American Vein.