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The Common Prayer of Immoderate Soils

Now there's an ubiquitous phrase on the Plains: we excel at "putting down roots"...Growing up in Kansas there is quite the opposite idea. Less so roots and more so treacherous vines.

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On Raymond Thompson’s “Appalachian Ghost”

By |Essays|

Thompson captured photos of the place — the hills of WVA folding into each other like origami, holding mist and dew in the hollows. And he staged new photos which conjure these working men, bearing up under hours of physical labor, covered in white dust, looking otherworldly but also fully human and integral to the achievement.

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Garbage Boy

By |Essays|

John was unbelievable with a trash bag. He threw the lighter ones from his hip, like an uppercut. The heavier bags were more like a hammer throw. You could tell he was accustomed to using, and needing to use, all the muscle he had left.

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The Pittsburgh School

By |Excerpt, Pittsburgh|

Yet part of what defines the Pittsburgh School, from Brackenridge onward, is the mystical kernel of something beyond mere matter that animates any consideration of this place: the transcendent in the prosaic, the sacred in the profane. An intimation of beauty amid a kingdom of ugliness.

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No Son of Mine

By |Excerpt|

I didn’t say, as they told me how they owned a boat and spent much of their summer cruising Maine’s coastline, that my mother’s biggest dream was to get out of West Virginia, that her biggest love was the ocean, that she hoped to die listening to the sounds of the waves.

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May Day is a Rust Belt Holiday

By |Essays|

May Day isn’t just an estimably American holiday, it’s a particularly Rust Belt holiday, forged in the cauldron of Chicago’s streets and factories, born from the experience of workers in the mills and plants of Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.

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Queering Appalachian Agriculture

By |Excerpt|

Kent follows the pattern of Rust Belt city decline with recovery, including a focus on sustainability. Edible Kent fits in the framework of moving toward sustainability while also addressing economic needs for low-income folks, while the city’s economic recovery and development strategy has been so focused on gentrification that one could call its view of sustainability anti-poor.

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