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Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland

Jeremy B. Jones

John F. Blair, Publisher
978-0-89587-624-9
$24.95 hardcover
5½ x 8½
288 pages
June 3, 2014

Across the Blue Ridge Mountains stretches a world both charming and complicated.

Jeremy Jones and his wife move into a small house above the creek where his family had settled 200 years prior. He takes a job alongside his former teachers in the local elementary school and sets out on a search to understand how this ancient land has shaped its people—how it shaped him. His search sends him burrowing in the past—hunting buried treasure and POW camps, unearthing Civil War graves and family feuds, exploring gated communities and tourist traps, encountering changed accents and immigrant populations, tracing Wal-Mart's sidewalks and carved-out mountains—and pondering the future. He meshes narrative and myth, geology and genealogy, fiddle tunes and local color about the briskly changing and oft-stigmatized world of his native southern Appalachians.

Somehow, these journeys continually lead him back to the mystical Bearwallow Mountain, a peak suddenly in flux.

Awards:

  • Winner of a 2015 GOLD IPPY for Autobiography / Memoir II (Coming of Age / Family Legacy / Travel)
  • Winner of a 2015 SILVER Foreword INDIEFAB Book of the Year for Autobiography/Memoir

Praise:

“ ‘Me in place and the place in me,’ Seamus Heaney declares in his poem ‘A Herbal.’ That idea is at the core of this deeply satisfying memoir of one man’s exile from and return to his Appalachian homeland. Jeremy Jones shows the complexity of a region and a people too often reduced to the crudest of stereotypes, and by doing so gains even greater self-awareness. Bearwallow is a book to be savored.” —Ron Rash, author of Serena and Nothing Gold Can Stay
Bearwallow is a treasury of local history interwoven with memoir and meditation on the sense of place and identity in a rapidly changing culture. In prose vivid and fresh, Jeremy Jones gives us an intimate and in-depth study of contrasting worlds—Latin America, the Blue Ridge Mountains, old families, new Hispanic arrivals, the pull of home, and the need to escape. This book is a journey across time, geography, music, ethnicity, language, and self-understanding. It is a story of both teaching and learning, of roots, and of unexpected discovery. Bearwallow is a delight to read.” —Robert Morgan, author of The Road from Gap Creek
“The remarkable thing about Bearwallow is its seamless weaving of time, place, and blood. Jeremy Jones’s craftsmanship in telling this story of generations and geography and his reverence for both are a beauty to behold. A fine debut of a fine writer—this is a wonderful book.” —Bret Lott, author of Dead Low Tide
“To me, Jeremy Jones represents a new generation of Southern writer, not held captive to the past, no longer in thrall to it, though appreciative and respectful. Bearwallow is a kind of recalibration of a region and a soul, a cultural guide through variously troubled landscapes that seeks to redress bitter conflicts in the least bitter way possible.” —Robin Hemley, author of Reply All
"[Jones's] narrative is haunting and evocative, full of rich details of the natural scenery and the history of a population that can trace its heritage back hundreds of years. As he examines the controversy over land developers who want to build an exclusive 'community' on the peak of the mountain, Jones reflects on how that action will change the entire region and realizes just how deep his roots run into the subsoil." —Lee E. Cart, Shelf Awareness
"The subject of Jeremy Jones’ museful 'personal history' is compelling and timely ... Jones ranges freely among his childhood and adult experiences, striving to get at the meaning of his place—and to find his voice ...  The themes of ancestry (including the original family settler, Abraham Kuykendall), growing up, the Mexican children’s ability to adjust, and the new development cross like transparencies in a slide show; and Jones’ poetic longing resolves into a stream of prose haikus." —Rob Neufeld, Asheville Citizen Times and The Read on WNC
"In a Steinbeck pattern of story-telling, Jones moves from past to present with an uncomplicated rhythm ...  I found myself drawn in and washed by the simple, yet complex storytelling techniques Jones employs. [Bearwallow is] a deceptive little volume that makes me anxious to see what he'll write next." —Jay Ashley, Burlington Times News
"A shredded memoir, braided into cohesion, becomes the perfect vehicle for exploring a crisis of identity. Jones embraces his range of mountain tongues, working in sprawling, intermingled sentences that recall the wide-ranging peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, while celebrating its sundry pieces... Jones's vocabulary tells his story more completely than any conglomeration of anecdotes could muster." —Sadie Shorr-Parks, the Iowa Review
"Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland is a compelling journey, and Jones successfully weaves the language, music, food, faith, and geography of the mountain area into a multi-layered narrative. While capturing the deep and haunting regional history and culture of the mountains, he does not over-romanticize or sentimentalize his topic." —Kathelene McCarty Smiths, Southeastern Librarian
Bearwallow is not a book to be rushed through, but one to be read at leisure with time for contemplation and thought. Jones shares historical fact, folklore, family drama, and unsolved mystery... This book is recommended for anyone interested in autobiographies or biographies colored by historical fact from the southern Appalachian region. Public and academic libraries that collect North Carolina or Appalachian history and folklore should definitely have Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland in their collections. High school libraries may wish to acquire this book as well." —Kaye Dotson, North Carolina Libraries
"With clean, strong prose and hefty thematic and emotional weight that echoes the writings of another notable North Carolina literary voice, Wells Tower ... thoughtful, fascinating material—a seamless weaving of personal insight with genealogy and geology—and Jones has a voice readers will want to hear more often." —Rory Johnson, WNC Magazine
"The mountainous landscape of Western North Carolina is…particularly rich with literature of place, and Jeremy B. Jones’s debut book, his memoir Bearwallow, makes a significant contribution. Jones takes the reader on a journey…and draws for the reader a literary map both internal and external that reveals the complexities of being native to a place and the threats and changes this place faces today." —Brent Martin, North Carolina Literary Review
“The strength of Jones’s memoir is in his focus on a “mountain homeland” that is connected to its own past and to the larger world in sometimes surprising ways.” —Laurel Sanders, Appalachian Journal
"Jones writes in the tradition of the famed Knoxville native [James Agee]. Unlike Agee, however, he does so without the least hint of condescension or outsider perspective. Jones writes with an evident love for the land and for the 'mountain folk.'" —Michael Hill, Historical Research Office, N.C. Office of Archives and History