Moving to Kentucky was a leap for me in unexpected ways. I’ve lived in many places including my homeland of East Tennessee where I was born.
Yet, in Bowling Green, KY I’ve realized a new land pulse. To “get to know” Kentucky I turned to historical fiction, one of my favorite genres in literature. I have an able guide in Wes Berry, Kentucky literature professor at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
Wes suggested I start with Elizabeth Madox Roberts, a writer whose works were published between the 1930s and 40s. The Great Meadow, short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize in 1930, and resurrected in 2012 by Hesperus Press, is a lyrical journey back in time to Kentucky circa 1774 – early 1800s. Through the eyes of Diony Hall, readers learn about the land, the historic moment, young love, and the hardships of pioneers.
As an environmental educator and writer, I am interested in the Canelands as described by Daniel Boone and James Harrod. Canes with trunks as thick as a man’s arm reaching to 30 feet in height. What is the native state of this place, I seek to know. Native Trees of Kentucky.
Elizabeth Roberts’ shares her emotional connection to the land of her birth through her character, Diony Hall: “Around them stretched the delirium of a fine land, level expanses of delicately tilted to fine curves, here and there cane patches of rich fat growth, here and there noble trees . . . ‘What do we want here? What did we come for?'” Chapter IV, page 102, Hesperus Press Limited, 2012 edition.
My questions, exactly.