CORVALLIS, Ore. – The author of a new novel set in West Virginia’s coal-mining country will visit Oregon State University on Friday, Feb. 15, at 7:30 p.m.
Ann Pancake, author of “Strange as This Weather Has Been,” will read from her work and answer questions in OSU’s Valley Library. The event is free and open to the public.
Pancake grew up in Appalachia where, she says, the mountains and their communities are under threat of destruction by mountain-top removal mining practices. In her book, Pancake evokes the powerful floods and disfigurement of the landscape, as well as the humanity of local families struggling to hold on to their traditions and a sense of place.
At the center of the story is a courageous 15-year-old girl named Bant, whose private quest to discover the disaster looming above her impoverished community gives the novel its suspense as well as its heart.
The novel, which took seven years to research and write, is based on interviews and real life events from individuals and communities who have directly experienced – and fought against – the devastating impact of this form of coal-mining. Pancake describes its toxic waste pools and heaps of slurry, and the constant threat of a “black flood” that might sweep away a whole town.
Published this fall by Shoemaker and Hoard, the novel received rave reviews in the New York Times Book Review, and O Magazine, among others. The author and environmentalist Wendell Berry says that it “brings at last within reach of imagination the almost unimaginable description of land and people in the Appalachian coalfields. Its completeness is made possible by its full acceptance of the heartbreak of its subject…it is one of the bravest novels I have ever read.”
Pancake’s previous work, the short story collection “Given Ground,” won the 2000 Katherine Bakeless Prize, as well as the prestigious Whiting Award for a new young talent. She lives in Seattle and teaches fiction writing at Pacific Lutheran University.
The author’s visit to OSU is co-sponsored by the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word and the OSU Center for the Humanities. Books will be available for sale and signing.