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Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective to present reading of writing by Vietnam veterans on April 19

By University Communications

BOONE, N.C.—The Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective will present “Brothers Like These,” a staged reading of writing by veterans of the Vietnam War, on April 19 at Appalachian State University.

View larger imageThis photo, titled “Coming into Country,” is of American soldiers in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Troy “Butch” Gudger, one of the Brothers.View larger imageMembers of the “Brothers Like These​” cast pose at the reading’s premiere last August in Asheville. Photo courtesy of the “Brothers” ensemble

The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Room 420 (Parkway Ballroom) of the Plemmons Student Union on the university campus. A reception will follow.

“Brothers Like These” consists of stories and poems that have been collected in a book of the same name; essentially, the book is the script for the reading on April 19. “Brothers” the book (St. Andrews University Press) will go on sale for the first time on April 19, both in Appalachian’s University Bookstore and during the reception following the reading.

Vietnam combat veterans worked on the project in Classroom B, which is in the basement of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, gathering there to write every Wednesday for nearly two years beginning in 2014. The sessions were directed by Joseph Bathanti, a professor of creative writing in Appalachian’s Department of English, and Dr. Bruce Kelly, a primary care physician at the VA.

“Those sessions yielded extraordinary writing. Though ‘Brothers Like These,’ the staged reading as well as the forthcoming book, is a kind of culmination of what went on in Classroom B, it is decidedly not the end of the work that the men engaged in, week in and out,” Bathanti said.

The writing program at Charles George is one of several similar efforts around the country for veterans. It began to take shape after Bathanti and Kelly began corresponding and concluded that a writing program led by a writer-in-residence at Charles George would be a good way for wounded veterans in Kelly’s care to address their struggles.

The writing program that spawned “Brothers” has been quite a success, according to written testimonials of those who have participated in it. It continues at Charles George, and Bathanti said that “much more” work will come from it. One of Bathanti’s principal interests over the last several years has been helping veterans and their families tell their stories. Bathanti helped arrange for the publication of “Brothers” the book.

Bathanti described “Brothers” the book as “an enduring testimony to their shared sacred sense of community, love and brotherhood. These are stories and poems, large and small, funny and heartbreaking, that only these men can relate in their own inimitable styles – stories and poems not just invaluable to succeeding generations of soldiers, but to every citizen of our country, and beyond.”

Bruce Weigl, a Vietnam veteran and finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, served as Appalachian’s Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing for the first eight weeks of the Fall 2016 semester. He also praised “Brothers.”

“What a remarkable collection of souls are represented in this collection, and not just the souls of these brave men who fought a jungle war no one wanted to remember and then somehow made their way to poetry,” he said. “It is the lyric beauty of these stories and poems that engages us as readers, but it is the depth of the experience that most singularly distinguishes this work, for which I am grateful.”

As for the reading, “Brothers Like These” was presented for the first time this past August at the Asheville Community Theater. The Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective is honored to host the second “Brothers” presentation, Bathanti said. To learn more about the performance and the collective, see http://diversity.appstate.edu/events/id/518.

“Brothers Like These” is being sponsored by several entities at Appalachian, including the Office of Academic Affairs; the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance; the Military Affairs Committee; and the Student Veterans Association.

About the Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective

The Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective is a working group of Appalachian State University employees and students dedicated to providing ongoing, sustainable, hands-on arts and humanities programs and workshops to campus veterans as well as veterans and their families in the areas surrounding Watauga County and beyond. The collective partners with other veterans constituencies and departments across Appalachian’s campus to foster a consortium of thought, activity and scholarship to benefit in transformative ways our student veterans, our entire campus community and the citizens of the greater community.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

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