2015 Weatherford Award Winners for Best Appalachian Books Announced

The winners of the 2015 Weatherford Awards are Nickole Brown’s Fanny Says (poetry), Robert Gipe’s Trampoline (fiction) and Studying Appalachian Studies: Making the Path by Walking, edited by Chad Berry, Shaunna Scott and Phillip Obermiller (non-fiction).

The Weatherford Awards honor books that “best illuminate the challenges, personalities and unique qualities of the Appalachian South.” Granted by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association for 36 years, the awards commemorate the life and achievements of W.D. Weatherford, Sr., a pioneer and leading figure in Appalachian development, youth work and race relations, and of his son, Willis D. Weatherford, Jr., who was Berea College President from 1967 – 84.

These winning authors will be recognized at the 2016 Appalachian Studies Association Conference at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, March 18-20.

Poetry Award

Nickole Brown’s Fanny Says (BOA Editions) is an “unleashed love song” to Brown’s late grandmother. A cross-genre collection that reads like a novel, this hilarious and often wrenching book is both a collection of oral history and a moving and lyrical biography that wrestles with the complexities of the South, including poverty, racism and domestic violence.

Though much of her childhood was spent in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Brown considers herself a Kentucky native. She graduated from The Vermont College of Fine Arts, studied literature at Oxford University as an English Speaking Union Scholar and was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. Currently, she is the editor for the Marie Alexander Series in Prose Poetry at White Pine Press and is on faculty at the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Murray State University and at the Writing Workshops in Greece.

One Weatherford Poetry judge said about Fanny Says, “I’ve known Fanny my whole life because in her I see the personality and nuances of many Appalachian women.” Another said: “Fanny Says is a declaration of independence and strength for rural women told in innovative and interesting poems that never failed to get me excited about the art of poetry.”

Finalists for the 2015 Weatherford Award in poetry are Pauletta Hansel’s Tangle (Don Madres Press) and William Wright’s Tree Heresies (Mercer University Press).


Fiction Award

Robert Gipe’s illustrated novel, Trampoline (Ohio University Press), is the story of 15-year old Dawn Jewell, who lives in eastern Kentucky with her addict mother, and her Mamaw, who inspires Dawn to join the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining. “I write by ear,” said Gipe, and Dawn’s voice is the essence of his debut novel. Jagged and honest, Trampoline is a powerful portrait of a place struggling with the economic and social forces that threaten and define it.

Gipe lives in Harlan, Kentucky, and grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. He earned his undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University and then completed a masters in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Gipe currently directs the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College and is one of the producers of Higher Ground, a series of community musical dramas which began in 2005. 

One Weatherford fiction judge called Trampoline “an important book for Appalachia, for teachers, for writers, for anyone who cares about the region and the problems facing its youth.” Another judge said, “Trampoline does not take a sentimental or idealized approach to describing Kentucky, but a realistic view of what it is to live in that place.”

Finalists for the 2015 Weatherford Award in fiction are Ann Pancake’s Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley and Ron Rash’s Above the Waterfall.


Non-Fiction Award

Studying Appalachian Studies: Making the Path By Walking, edited by Chad Berry, Phillip J. Obermiller and Shaunna L. Scott (University of Illinois Press), is a collection of essays reflecting on the scholarly, artistic, activist, educational and practical endeavor known as Appalachian Studies. Following an introduction to the field, the writers discuss how Appalachian Studies illustrates the ways interdisciplinary studies emerge, organize and institutionalize themselves, and how they engage with intellectual, political and economic forces both locally and around the world.

Chad Berry is academic vice president and dean of the faculty, Goode Professor of Appalachian Studies, and professor of history at Berea College. He is the author of Southern Migrants, Northern Exiles. Phillip Obermiller is a senior visiting scholar in the School of Planning at the University of Cincinnati. He is coauthor of African American Miners and Migrants: The Eastern Kentucky Social Club. Shaunna L. Scott is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Kentucky and the author of Two Sides to Everything: The Cultural Construction of Class Consciousness in Harlan County, Kentucky.

Weatherford Award judges in non-fiction say that the book “captures an Appalachian Studies that is still developing, but one that has come of age” and “points toward new ways of studying Appalachian Studies as well as raising questions that need to be grappled with in the future.”

Finalists for the 2015 Weatherford Award in Non-Fiction are James Green’s The Devils Is Here In These Hills (Grove Atlantic), Sue Eisenfeld’s Shenandoah: A Story of Conservation and Betrayal (University of Nebraska Press), and Phil Jamison’s Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance (University of Illinois Press).

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Tags: Appalachia, Literature, Weatherford Awards

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.