It’s time for our annual Sunday with Friends literary series at the main library in Abingdon. We begin with a talk from Beth Macy, Jan. 15 at 3 p.m.
Macy was a feature writer for the Roanoke Times who became a best-selling author by exploring true stories from her region. In 2014 came “Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town.” That book tells the tale of John Bassett III and his struggles to save his company and his town. In 2016 Macy wrote “Truevine — Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South.” This is the story of twin albino African-American brothers who spent decades during the 20th century as sideshow “freaks.”
Little Brown, her publisher, says this about “Truevine.”
“The year was 1899, as the old people told the story; the place a sweltering Virginia tobacco community in the Jim Crow South, where everyone they knew was either a former slave, or a child or grandchild of slaves.
“’Truevine’ is the story of George and Willie Muse, two African American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother embarked on an epic, decades-long struggle to get them back — and to get justice for her family.
“Though the Muse brothers’ narrative has been passed down for over a century, no writer has ever gotten this close to the beating heart of their story, and its mysteries: Were they really kidnapped? How did their mother, a black maid toiling under the harsh restrictions of segregation, bring them home? And why, after getting there, would they ever want to go back?
“At the height of their fame, the Muse brothers performed for British royalty and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden. They were fine musicians and global superstars in a pre-broadcast era. But the very root of their success hinged on the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even “Ambassadors from Mars.”
Macy has been a reporter for more than 25 years. She spent years working for the Roanoke Times and writes essays for The New York Times. She’s also written for magazines, radio and online journals. Her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for journalism at Harvard.
The bestselling “Truevine” was chosen as A New York Times Notable Book of 2016, a Kirkus Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence.
The series continues Feb. 12 at 3 p.m., with Belle Boggs, acclaimed young Southern writer, who talks about her life in writing.
Fred Sauceman, a leading food writer in the Appalachian area, speaks March 5 at 3 p.m. His newest work is “Buttermilk and Bible Burgers,” which he describes as “a tribute to the people loyal to the land and proud of their culinary heritage of breaking beans, the dignity of the barbecue pit, the nobility of the black-iron skillet and the transformative power of a glass of Tennessee buttermilk.”
Linda Parsons and Other Poets join in a regional poetry celebration, March 26 at 3 p.m. Knoxville poet Parsons’ fourth volume of poetry, “This Shaky Earth,” straddles time, family divisions and legacies, and the regions of her native Tennessee. Members of the Appalachian Center for Poets and Writers join her.
Julie Zickefoose speaks April 23 at 3 p.m. Zickefoose, an acclaimed nature writer and wildlife illustrator, speaks on the day after Earth Day to celebrate her new book, “Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest.”
Robert Morgan returns to the literary series May 21 at 3 p.m. Morgan is an internationally-known historian, biographer, poet and fiction writer. His new historical novel, “Chasing the North Star,” is the story of Jonah Williams, who in 1850 flees from the South Carolina plantation on which he was born a slave.
Quinn Hawkesworth performs her new one-woman show, “Suitcase Blues,” June 4 at 3 p.m.
The “Sunday with Friends” literary series is sponsored by the Friends of the Washington County Public Library. All events are free and open to the public. They include receptions, book sales and signings.