Announcing Fireside Industries, A New Source for Appalachian Literature

The University Press of Kentucky is this year celebrating its 75th anniversary. In this time, UPK has served the Commonwealth tirelessly, publishing works of scholarship and literature that exponentially expand access to place-based education, history, and culture one book at a time.

So we are especially proud to announce that in this auspicious year of celebration, we are partnering with UPK to found the press’s first-ever imprint. Fireside Industries, an imprint of University Press of Kentucky and Hindman Settlement School, seeks to provide stability to the Appalachian literary tradition by publishing new works, as well as reissues of classics, that contribute importantly to the region.

Over the last century, Appalachia has produced a groundbreaking literature that blends genres and lifts the diverse voices of peoples living and working close to the land. From poetry and fiction to documentary and food writing, this tradition advances into the 21st century in necessary ways, despite the growing lack of press homes.

Hindman Settlement School has been the seedbed for the Appalachian literary imagination since its founding in 1902. Perhaps because of this, we are keenly aware that many of our tradition’s masterpieces are long out-of-print, while other major works are less and less likely to reach publication, due to the continued challenges of the 21st century publishing business. Fireside Industries will work to resist these trends. Together we will resurrect works that belong in our classrooms, libraries, and living rooms, ensuring our literary inheritance is not forgotten, while we also release new works we believe will advance the tradition for future generations.

I could not be happier to tell you that our first editions will be a reissue of Lucy Furman’s The Quare Women and a release of Tanya Amyx Berry’s first book, For the Hog Killing, 1979.

First edition print of The Quare Women

Lucy Furman was a housemother, dairy supervisor, and the first novelist to live and work here at the Hindman Settlement School. Having followed her school friends May Stone and Katherine Pettit to Hindman, she built here a life of gardening, teaching, and writing that produced nationally-celebrated documentary fictions about life in Knott County, Kentucky. Too often dismissed as local-color, Ms. Furman’s stories are instead formal inventions, packed with progressive ideas and complex characters, while also staying deeply rooted in this, her chosen homeplace. The Quare Women was her third novel about Hindman and proved to be a significant American novel of the early 20th century.

Tanya and Wendell Berry

Tanya Amyx Berry is, as Yes! magazine recently noted, “the most important fiction editor almost no one has ever heard of.” Commonly referred to as the wife of writer and farmer Wendell Berry, Ms. Berry has built a lifetime of radical artistry entirely her own, understanding first and foremost that it is the making of her own life that is the art. While doing so, she and Mr. Berry have collaborated on all of his published works; she being his first, last, and best editor. For the Hog Killing, 1979, will present a folio of photographs made by Ms. Berry, never before published. I could not agree more with Ben Aguilar, the book’s editor, who remarks: “I believe wholeheartedly that this series of photographs is as important a cultural artifact as anything produced by the best known documentarians of rural American life, be it Lange, Evans, or Lomax. In contrast to many of those iconic renderings of agrarian existence, these images represent a functioning agrarian community engaged in mutual support, as viewed from within.”

The name of the imprint is a nod to an important early project at Hindman Settlement School. The first Fireside Industries was founded in 1902 and was a platform for our student and community craftspeople, providing them a venue for learning to weave, craft wood, make baskets, and fashion musical instruments. This project stabilized traditional arts that were at-risk, while also providing the economic foundation our neighbors needed to continue living their lives in agrarian artistry.

Fireside Industries imprint will be edited by Rebecca Gayle Howell and Brent Hutchinson, in partnership with the University Press of Kentucky’s Patrick O’Dowd and Leila Salisbury. Look for our first two titles next year!