On Thursday, March 21, Savannah Sipple and Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman joined Appalachian Heritage in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center to read from their new work. Savannah kicked off the night after Appalachian Heritage Editor Jason Howard announced she had received runner-up for the Denny C. Plattner Award in Poetry for her poem “What We Tell Ourselves.” Savannah’s reading from her new poetry collection WWJD and Other Poems (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019) made us all laugh because of her talent for using humor to discuss sensitive issues. She is a major voice for the LGBTQIA+ community in Appalachia and is open about her experiences. In her poetry collection, Sipple discusses her relationship to the region, to her body, to her sexuality. She talks about issues of domestic violence, of her relationship to her religion, or whether to leave or stay.
Next, Jessica read from her new memoir Sounds Like Titanic (W.W. Norton and Company, 2019). She, too, uses humor to address issues she has faced in her life. Jessica writes about crippling anxiety, the fakeness we are confronted with every day, an increasing wealth gap, and the female experience in America. She shares her experiences performing violin for a fake group led by a man she calls The Composer in front of a dead mic with a CD playing the actual music. The audience is fooled, and she eventually experiences a rift in her connection to reality. She writes about issues relevant to Appalachia including access to educational opportunity, judgment for dialect and accent, and feeling the need when she left the region for college to speak for the entire community.
Savannah and Jessica closed out the night with a Q&A session about their writing habits, how they balance teaching and writing, and what made them decide to pursue their careers in writing. Because of the dark and sensitive topics addressed by both writers, the evening could easily have been a downer. However, the humor used to convey such issues and the demeanor of the two writers as well as their wonderful ability to turn a phrase made the night a success, and everyone, myself included, flocked to the table to purchase copies and get them signed by the two powerhouse women. After reading their books and hearing them read, I recommend to anyone, especially young women, to pick up copies, sit down with a cup of tea, and read and laugh and read some more.
Article Written by Emily Masters