We live in a time when appealing to and listening to the diversity of America's voices are more important than ever. The goal of the Open Canon Book Club is to introduce readers to voices and portrayals of the American experience they may not have otherwise encountered in their day-to-day lives, their education, or their book club meetings. Literary diversity plays a vital role in making us understood to one another, and this hope of understanding is the hinge upon which our democracy swings.
As to the name of the Open Canon Book Club, below are a few definitions from Merriam-Webster that are particularly apt:
Open: not restricted to a particular group or category of participants; exposed to general view or knowledge; having no enclosing or confining barrier.
Canon: a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works; a criterion or standard of judgment; a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms.
For each month's selection of the Open Canon Book Club I will post discussion questions here and across my social media accounts, and I will also host live book club discussions online and in independent bookstores. The authors of each month's selection will be invited to participate in any and every way that interests them. I will also post and share relevant documentaries, essays, websites, and blogs that will enrich the experience of reading and discussing the month's selection.
I'm thrilled to announce that bookstores across the country are willing to extend their book club discounts, between 10-20%, to members of the Open Canon Book Club. Please see below for a list of bookstores, and make sure to join the Open Canon Book Club to get the tagline that will unlock these bookseller discounts.
Bookstores Participating in the Open Canon Book Club Discount:
Alabama: Page & Palette (Fairhope).
Connecticut: Bank Square Books (Mystic).
Louisiana: Octavia Books (New Orleans).
Mississippi: Square Books (Oxford).
Missouri: Left Bank Books (St. Louis).
New York: Books Are Magic (Brooklyn).
North Carolina: Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe (Asheville); Foggy Pine Books (Boone); Page 158 Books (Wake Forest); Scuppernong Books (Greensboro); Park Road Books (Charlotte); Bookmarks (Winston-Salem); Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill); Regulator Bookshop (Durham); Two Sisters Bookery; Athenian House; Pomegranate Books (Wilmington); Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh); Country Bookshop (Southern Pines); Quarter Moon Books (Topsail Island); Main Street Books (Davidson); McIntyre's Books (Pittsboro); City Lights Bookstore (Sylva); Blue Ridge Books (Waynesville); Highland Books (Brevard).
Oregon: Another Read Through (Portland).
Pennsylvania: Penguin Bookshop (Sewickly).
Rhode Island: Savoy Bookshop and Cafe (Westerly).
Utah: The King's English Bookshop (Salt Lake City).
Virginia: One More Page (Arlington).
West Virginia: Four Seasons Books (Shepherdstown).
National: Books-A-Million (email email@example.com for discount info.) Members of the Millionaires Club are eligible for free shipping)..
The November selection of the Open Canon Book Club is What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte.
In 2016 headlines declared Appalachia ground zero for America’s “forgotten tribe” of white working class voters. Journalists flocked to the region to extract sympathetic profiles of families devastated by poverty, abandoned by establishment politics, and eager to consume cheap campaign promises. Following the election, demystifying Appalachia and locating the roots of its dysfunction quickly became a national industry, shoring up the success of J.D. Vance’s memoir Hillbilly Elegy and the author’s rise to fame as the media’s favorite working-class whisperer with broad appeal to liberals and conservatives alike. Personal anecdotes that demonstrated the enduring failures of American progress spoken through the mouthpiece of colorful and bereaved mountain folk became its own genre of election writing – the “Trump Country” piece – and in its creation reduced the region’s rich and complex history to a series of character studies.
What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is a frank assessment of America’s recent fascination with the people and problems of the region. The book analyzes trends in contemporary writing on Appalachia, presents a brief history of Appalachia with an eye toward unpacking Appalachian stereotypes, and provides examples of writing, art, and policy created by Appalachians as opposed to for Appalachians. The book offers a must-needed insider’s perspective on the region.
Elizabeth Catte is a writer and historian from East Tennessee. She holds a PhD in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and is the co-owner of Passel, a historical consulting and development company.