Solvitur Ambulando © E. Gaucher

Creative Nonfiction, #23, Early Fall 2022

Brad Gibault, Uncle Monty
Tara Guy, Broken Bread
Anita Kestin, Chatham

Featured Artist

EDG

Sometimes we have essays that we loved but the timing was wrong and we check back with the writers to see if they are still interested in publishing with us. I feel so fortunate to be able to share these three with you now in a bonus issue of Longridge Review.

Brad Gibault is back! If you loved The Myth of Pat, you’ll enjoy Uncle Monty. Gibault has a talent I described to him this way in our correspondence:

You walk a thin line, but your skill as a writer keeps Uncle Monty’s story balanced and in the right zone. Despite your love and devotion to your uncle, you find a way to slip in little details about some of the troubles in his life. You let him be human. That’s where the good stuff is. When we deify and protect childhood versions of those we love, we don’t allow them to be human and we don’t allow ourselves to grow up.

EDG

Tara Guy gifts us with that rare blend of humor and grief as her child mind innocently inquires into why when “pagans” eat people it’s bad, but when Catholics eat Jesus it’s good; I’ll just let you discover this funny and heartbreaking narrative in your own way.

Anita Kestin‘s essay is a gorgeous and frightening dive into a very young child’s intuitive generational knowledge. She sees things in her grandmother she doesn’t understand but cannot unsee, and spends her life coming to terms with what she sees and needs to understand. Our readers weren’t sure the intensity of this one was earned until I pointed out Kestin’s bio. Read it.

And this issue’s “art” is a few of my personal snaps when I lived in Vermont. Because this Early Fall issue was unexpected, I didn’t have an artist on deck, so I am sharing my own photos. They don’t touch the levels of our true artists, but I hope they bring you a smile.

EDG

The Breakfast Club © Jamie Miller

Creative Nonfiction, #22, Spring 2022

Catherine Con, Mangifera Indica
Brad Gibault, The Myth of Pat
Mark Lucius, When You Wish Upon An All-Star
Beverley Stevens, A Proper Sunday Lunch
Marianne Worthington, Young and Red-headed

Featured Artist

Jamie Miller

The Spring issue is live, and the #BarnhillPrize is open. Life is good!

Catherine Con is back with another lush mystery-tinged narrative; this time her words bring us into a sensuous, dream-like meditation on wild mangoes. Brad Gibault leverages both humor and Greek mythology to explore his relationship with his school bus driver, Pat. Mark Lucius brings us back to witness how, at 10 years old, he faced more grown-up ethical decisions than have some adults and changed the athletic resumes of more than one person. Beverley Stevens sets a place for us at her grandmother’s formal dining table. Marianne Worthington uses her poet’s heart perspective on memories of her mother, angels, ghosts, and more.

And Jamie Miller with her art — well, you know how I feel about that.

EDG

P.S. And the #BarnhillPrize is open for submissions!

©Jamie Miller

The stereotypes of feral, uncivilized  toothless hillbillies not willing to pull themselves out of poverty by their bootstraps are not always true. 

I go barefoot a lot, but I only  know one person missing teeth, and she lost hers in a mosh pit at a punk rock show. The coal mines owned my grandfather at the age of fourteen. He never learned to read and died of black lung. My mom has mental illness and dependency issues. My dad was rarely around and I remember him setting fire to his hat once and telling me he was doing magic tricks while chugging moonshine. My grandmother helped raise me. She had an eighth grade education, but was the smartest woman I’ve ever known. 

I grew up in a hollow that runs about ten miles. In those ten miles, there were two coal mines and at least six churches. Everything was always covered in coal soot so the trailer I lived in with my mother and sister was always black and dirty. That is why the trailers in my paintings are opera pink. My childhood was a stereotypical “Appalachian” narrative–poverty, dependency, mental illness, abuse. It always seemed so loud in our home, even when it was quiet. I always wore headphones and listened to mixtapes. It was the only time I could hear myself and have clear thoughts despite the chaos going on around me. I took solace in music and still do.

I always said I would leave West Virginia. I even to this day say it. It’s a very love/hate relationship. I could leave at any time, but I stay to fight, to make it a better place, and to be the voice sometimes for those who cannot speak. I often say it’s like I have Stockholm Syndrome. West Virginia is not an easy place to live. It’s not an easy place to make it, and it’s also somewhat easy to fall into a state of just existing, due to politics and the extraction of our wealth. Big Coal and Big Pharma are the rulers of a land that is home to the most hardworking, magical, complex humans you will meet anywhere. I stay for those folks and these mountains that cast spells. No one who isn’t from Appalachia will ever understand.

Telling stories–our stories–is a way to connect

I always love the underdog, the person who lives in that dirty coal trailer, but knows that they don’t have to accept that as the future. I love the storytellers who surprise you with their stories of resilience and take what you think you know about us and turn it upside down. I love old things that hold memories–cast off items, misfit broken dolls and toys. I love ghosts and daydreams. I love little towns and hollers in the country, porch stories, and kids who love punk rock because they believe it will save them.   

Artist Statement 

I am a product of the West Virginia stereotype but mine is a complicated story of heritage, history, and pride. It is granny witches, and the spells the mountains have cast on me that make me stay and use my art as a tool to fight. 

In my recent work, I incorporate layers of paint, symbolism, and folklore to portray the destruction of my mountain home. I invite the viewer in by using a bright color palette and childlike critters to create what seems like a beautiful safe space only upon further examination noticing the darkness. The mountains are bandaged; big coal owns this state. Big Pharma wants those who don’t leave to die by introducing millions of opioids into already fragile communities. Our waters are full of poison. It is a battle of good versus evil, the spirit of the Appalachian that refuses to succumb without a fight. It is the story of our people and the state I love in so much pain. 

Jamie Miller was born and raised in the West Virginia coalfields. She is a painter, textile artist, and activist. Find more of her art on our Featured Artist page.