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Monday, January 2, 2012

Suggestions From The Work Of Loyal Jones

"All work in Appalachia must be based on the genuine needs as expressed by mountain people themselves.  Whatever work is done must be done with the recognition that Appalachian culture is real and functioning." Loyal Jones; "Appalachian Values"; p. 10.
Over the years, I have provided numerous staff trainings and professional presentations on the topics of Appalachian Culture, cultural diversity, and delivery of professional counseling services in Appalachia.  I have always tried to see to it that the Loyal Jones quote above was the first and last slide of any power point presentation I ever made on the  topic of Appalachian Studies.  It is the most important idea that any professional working in Appalachia can burn into his or her mind especially if they are not native Appalachian.  Every year or two, I go  back and reread the classic little book by Jones.  I frequently quote from it both in writing and in conversation.  At 144 pages, it is a markedly compact little slice of some of the most important truths in all of Appalachian literature.  Once again, at the New Year, I have taken it off the shelf and begun to read, memorize, and reflect on it.  The book is frequently maligned or underestimated.  Its critics often say it is simplistic.  But truth is frequently contained in the most simple of phrases.  Consider little plums such as "thou shalt not bear false witness" from the King James Bible.  Basic tenets of human philosophy, religion, and culture are contained in such phrases.  Jones' book is full of such little gems.  Of the 144 pages, a majority of them are taken up by the powerful photos of Warren Brunner.  The book arose from a widely acclaimed journal article from the Texas Tech Press which was later expanded into the book.  It is just small enough that even the least interested novice can be induced to read it when inquiring about Appalachia and Appalachian Culture.  If that novice is not overly captivated by Brunner's photos, they are quite likely to grasp at least one of the  basic ideas the book contains.  It is always the first book I suggest to anyone who states a desire to learn about Appalachia.  It can always become the rock solid foundation for a growing and effective knowledge of the region.  While it is not remotely comprehensive in its breadth, it is fundamentally true and basic enough that the average sixth grader can grasp its central themes. 

In the brief chapter on "Humility or Modesty", this little gem jumps off the page: "we mountaineers are levellers, and we believe we are as good as anybody else, but no better.  We believe that we should not put on airs, not boast, nor try to get above our raising." Jones; p 90. 

If every native Appalachian could grasp that idea and ensure that all those they encounter come to recognize it, all Appalachians would be better off.  Most of the negative stereotypes about us would gradually disintegrate and die out.  I would love to know that every person who reads this posting would pick the book up and read it.  If you are among the lucky group who have read it, I suggest that you pick it up and re-examine it with an eye to the little gems it contains.  Consider passing it along to your friends.  I frequently give it as a gift in the hope that it reaches deeper than the coffee table and into the mind of the recipient. 

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