BOONE—Professor Patricia D. Beaver, director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University, has received the Appalachian Writers Association’s award for the Appalachian Book of the Year in Nonfiction.
The award was presented during the association’s annual meeting held at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn.
Beaver and co-recipient Judith Jennings were honored for their edited memoir “Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia.” The book, published by the University of Kentucky Press, is a collection of Lewis’s writings and memories that document her life and work, beginning in 1943 with her job on the yearbook staff at Georgia State College for Women.
According to the press, Lewis is often considered the inspiration for the Appalachian studies field.
Beaver said that as a radical teacher, researcher and activist, Lewis has lived and worked at the nexus of social movements in the South and the Appalachian region, and called for political, economic and environmental justice. At the same time, Lewis moved to the forefront of a new pedagogy that envisioned student empowerment and community engagement through the developing field of Appalachian studies. As Steve Fisher notes in his introduction to the book, Lewis is considered by many to be the most important public intellectual in Appalachia.
Beaver and Jennings highlight the achievements of Lewis’s extensive career, examining her role as a teacher and activist at Clinch Valley College (now University of Virginia at Wise) and East Tennessee State University in the 1960s. Their book also chronicles her work with Appalshop, a non-profit multi-disciplinary arts and education center, as well as her work with the Highlander Center, a non-profit community-based educational organization committed to cultural and economic justice in Appalachia and the South.
Since 1983 the Appalachian Writers Association has served as a sustaining and encouraging force for established and emerging writers writing in and about the Appalachian region. Anyone who has a heritage in Appalachia, or who currently lives in Appalachia is eligible for membership. The only requirement is interest in the writing process, in whatever form the member might choose.