Compiled by Larry Smith, BGSU Firelands College/ Bottom Dog Press

(With thanks to Edwina Pendarvis, Laura Bently, Ann Pancake,
Meredith Sue Willis and 
Phyllis Wilson Moore for suggestions.
We are looking at adult fiction here. )

[To correct or suggest titles, contact:
Last revised 11/10/2011
See more links to Appalachian Writing and Working-class Literature at the bottom here
at ]

General Characteristics of Working-Class Writing and Art;
not designed to be criterion but characteristics.

1) The writing is based on lived experience and shows characters as human persons in a lived space, depicting their daily life including their actual physical work.
2) The writing creates space for people to speak and represent themselves, includes speech idioms and dialects, curses and blessings.
3) The writing is communal in nature. The individual "I" is speaking for the collective "We."
4) Readers can recognize themselves in the writing; it gives validation to their own stories and culture.
5) The writing gives language to human suffering and grief. Economics forces are recognized thus giving validation to deep feelings often ignored by mainstream art.
6) The writing (art) has agency in the world, is useful.
7) The writing includes forces of social and political history and their impact on human relationship.
8) The writing challenges dominant assumptions about aesthetics... It breaks rules or conventions of form in favor of verity of experience.
9) The writing builds consciousness of class oppression....denial of rights, exploitative marketplace, etc. and may lead to rebellion.

10) The writing takes sides..."Which Side Are You On?" it asks and then declares.
[Source: Developed in collaboration with Janet Zandy and her Hands: Physical Labor, Class, and Cultural Work (Rutgers University Press)]

Additional Characteristics of Appalachian Working-Class Writing

1) The writing reveals a deep appreciation of folk habits and customs, family rituals.
Music, alcohol and food are a major part of the life ritual.
2) Family extends back historically and in a neighborly way to community.
3) Themes of sense of place abound; most are not about ‘escaping’ the working-class culture but of going out for education yet returning home to help. “Stayputters,” "grounded," not mobile. "This is the story of a land shaped by the people, and a people shaped by the land,"-The Appalachians (film)
4) Ethnocentrism is present in families, towns, counties. Distrust comes first till one is revealed as “one of us,” then welcome is extended.
5) Often religion is strong, emotionally and physically intense…fundamental yet often given individual or family interpretation..."Free Willers."
6) The writing reveals people finding ways of “getting by,” “making do,” “Do-it-yourselfers.”
7) Those living in poverty are not clearly separate from working-class.
8) The writing is marked by an intimate sense of community—though respecting uniqueness of character, it most often portrays an interdependence of relationships including home, family, town, work, and the landscape and natural world.
9) Rebellion comes when family or land is violated, property rights must be respected.
10) Unions play a major role in the life and writing.
11) In the narrative there is a fondness for multiple points of view, either through many narrators
or the use of subnarrotors, typically in authentic dialect.


1930's & 1940's 1950's 1960's


Rebecca Harding Davis. Life in the Iron Mills or The Korl Woman (1861; rpt. 1972); Margaret Howth: A Story of To-Day (1862).

1930's & 1940's

Edith Summers Kelley. Weeds (1923; rpt. 1972, 1982).

Alberta Pierson Hannum. Thursday April (1931).

Tom Kromer. Waiting for Nothing. (1935; reissued 1968; 1989).

Jesse Stuart. Trees of Heaven (1940); Men of the Mountains (1941); Taps for Private Tussie (1943); Tales from the Plum Grove Hills (1946).

Hubert Skidmore. I Will Lift up My Eyes (1936); Heaven Came So Near (1938); River Rising(1939); Hill Doctor (1940); Hawks Nest (1941).  

James Still. River of Earth (1940).

Harriette Arnow. Hunter's Horn (1949). 


Harriette Arnow. The Dollmaker (1954).

James Agee. A Death in the Family (1957).


Wendell Berry. Nathan Coulter (1960);  A Place on Earth (1967, revised 1983).

Davis Grubb. Voices of Glory (1962); Fool's Parade (1969).


Wendell Berry. The Memory of Old Jack (1974).

Gurney Norman. Kinfolks (1977).

John Knowles.  A Vein of Riches (1978).

Jesse Stuart. The Land Beyond the River (1973).

Jayne Anne Philips. Black Tickets (1979).


Wendell Berry. The Wild Birds: Six Stories of the Port William Membership (1986); Remembering (1988); A World Lost (1996)

Bobbie Ann Mason. Shiloh and Other Stories (1982; stories); Spence and Lila (1988); In Country (1989).

Breece D'J Pancake. The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake (Stories. 1983).

Annabel Thomas The Phototropic Woman (Stories 1981).

Michael Henson. Ransack (1982); A Small Room with Trouble on My Mind (Stories 1983).

Jayne Anne Philips.  Machine Dreams (1984).

Gretchen Moran Laskas. The Midwife’s Tale (1984).

Ellesa Clay High.  Past Titan Rock: Journey Into an Appalachian Valley (1984).

Denise Giardina. Storming Heaven (1987); The Unquiet Earth (1992).

Pinckney Benedict. Town Smokes: Stories (1987).

Barbara Kingsolver. The Bean Trees (1988).

Dorothy Allison. Trash: Stories (1988).

Lee Maynard. Crum (1988; rev. ed. 2001).

Richard Currey. Fatal Light (1988).


John Ehle. The Road (1991); Journey of August King (1995).

Dorothy Allison. Bastard Out of Carolina (1992).

Chris Offutt. Kentucky Straight (1992); The Good Brother (1998) Out of the Woods: Stories (1999).

Barbara Kingsolver. Pigs in Heaven (1994).

Pinckney Benedict. The Wrecking Yard (Stories 1992); Dogs of God (1993).

Meredith Sue Willis. In the Mountains of America (1994).

Sharyn McCrumb. She Walks These Hills (1994); The Rosewood Casket (1996); The Ballad of Frankie Silver (1998).

Lee Smith. Fair and Tender Ladies (1995); Saving Grace (1995).

Jim Wayne Miller. His First Best Country (1995).

Fred Chappel. Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You (Stories 1995).

Chris Holbrook. Hell and Ohio: Stories of Southern Appalachia (Stories 1995)

Larry Smith. Beyond Rust (Stories 1996).

Charles Frazier. Cold Mountain (1997).

Annabel Thomas. Knucklebones (1996); Blood Feud (1998).

William Demby. Beetlecreek (1998).

Jack R. Pyle. The Sound of Distant Thunder (1998).

Richard Currey. Lost Highway (1998).


Barbara Kingsolver. Prodigal Summer (2000).

Crystal Wilkinson. Blackberries, Blackberries (Stories 2000); Water Street (2004).

Belinda Anderson.  The Well Ain't Dry Yet (2001); The Bingo Cheaters (2006).

Ed Davis. 
I Was So Much Older Then (2001).

Annabel Thomas. Stone Man Mountain (2002).

Jeanne Bryner. Eclipse (Stories 2003).

Mark Powell. Prodigals (2002); Blood Kin (2003).

Silas House. Clay's Quilt (2002); A Parchment of Leaves (2003); The Coal Tatoo (2005).

Sharyn McCrumb. The Songcatcher (2001); Ghost Riders (2003).

Meredith Sue Willis. Oradell at Sea (2003).

John McManus. Born on a Train (Stories 2003); Bitter Milk (2005).

Wendell Berry. Hannah Coulter (2004); Nathan Coulter (2008).

Ann Pancake. Given Ground (Stories 2001); Strange as this Weather Has Been (2007).

Valerie Nieman. Survivors (2000); Fidelities (Stories 2004).

Ron Rash. The World Made Straight (2006); Burning Bright (Stories 2010).

Jim Tomlinson. Things Kept, Things Left Behind (Stories 2006); Nothing Like an Ocean (Stories 2009).

Robert Love Taylor. Blind Singer Joe's Blues (2006)

Kevin Stewart. The Way Things Always Happen Here (Stories 2007).

Gretchen Moran Laskas. The Miner’s Daughter (2007)

M. Glenn Taylor. The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart (2008).

Donald Ray Pollock. Knockemstiff (Stories 2008).

Jayne Anne Philips. Lark and Termite (2009).

Larry Smith. The Long River Home (2009).

Chris Holbrook. Upheaval (Stories 2009).

Julia Nunnally Duncan. When Day Is Dong (Stories 2009).

Rachel Keener. The Killing Tree (2009).


Charles Dodd White. Lambs of Men (2010); Sinners of Sanction County (Stories 2011).

Jaimy Gordon. Lord of Misrule (2010).

Julia Nunnally Duncan. Drops of the Night (2011).

Richard Hague. Learning How: Stories, Yarns and Tales (Stories 2011).

Larry Smith. The Free Farm: A Novel (2011).

Some Further Links
Link to  Bottom Dog Press

Some Appalachian Poets List
Appalachian Books by Bottom Dog Press
Appalachian Films and Television List
Larry Smith Homepage

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