James Stills River of Earth is a classic not only of Appalachian literature but of American literature. Published in 1940, it is both a poignant, at times heart-breaking look at hard times in the Eastern Kentucky hills and a celebration of the enduring beauty of those hills and the courage, faith, and spirit of their people. As the young narrator grows from childhood into adolescence, he learns about poverty, grief, and the conflicts that can tear families and communities apartbut also about the love that holds them together.
In addition to the regular bookclub discussion, KET produced an hour-long special, James Stills Legacy, as part of our November 2003 tribute to the author. It includes excerpts from several other discussions of River of Earth: by Sue Churchills students at Woodford County High School; by Maria Harrisons students at Williamsburg High School; and by a mixed group of Bethlehem High School and Western Kentucky University students at Bardstown Booksellers, led by Father Gary Young. In addition, five contemporary Appalachian writers participated in a roundtable discussion of Stills impact on their own work and careers, taped at the Hindman Settlement School in Stills beloved Knott County. Others interviewed include Mike Mullins, director of the Hindman Settlement School, and writers Wilma Dykeman, George Ella Lyon, and the late Jim Wayne Miller.
Program videos: bookclub panel discussion (30 minutes) and James Stills Legacy (60 minutes) [Both require RealPlayer®.]
Resources for teachers on James Still and River of Earth
Writers featured in the roundtable: Chris Holbrook, Silas House, Leatha Kendrick, Frank X Walker, and Crystal Wilkinson
Video reading: Kentucke by Frank X Walker
Blurbs from the book cover
Card catalog entry from the Library of Congress
Amazon.com information page
Barnes and Noble information page