I have sat in front of my laptop for hours, intent on writing, intent on writing about Appalachia. But I am froze in front of my screen (and not just because it is currently 9 degrees outside). It has proven difficult because Appalachia, as a region, is difficult.
Where do I start?
Do I start speaking about my family? About my “upbringing”? About regional stereotypes? Do I start by telling y’all, my audience, lies of the region? Do I start with the truth? Am I entirely sure what is the difference between the two in Appalachia?
What things do we love of Appalachia? What things do we ignore? Am I allowed to be critical of the region that raised me? Am I considered to be Appalachian? Is that different from the rest of the United States?
Why is this so difficult? Why can’t I think of the words to say. I spent an entire semester studying the History of Appalachia, I read countless articles, watched various documentaries, read multiple books, interviewed my own family members, searched family records, and for what?
The first 18 years of my life this region was the only thing I had ever known and here I am, unable to put any of it into words.
This is my intro to my series on Appalachia, a bunch of unanswerable questions, because for many this is exactly what Appalachia is. My name is Garrett Whitlock, my entire family has lived within Appalachia for over a century. From immigrants, to coal miners, to World War II service men, and farmers. I am here to find the answers to these questions, through the group of people I know the best. My own family.