Wednesday, December 29, 2021

December 29, 2021 - WV Author of the Month

Hello, readers! Brooke County Libraries are excited to present our last West Virginia Author of the Month. For December 2021, we are featuring prolific writer Denise Giardina.

Denise Giardina´s novels have won the American Book Award, the Lillian Smith Award for fiction, and the Boston Book Review fiction prize. Her roots run deep in the coal mines of Appalachia and stories about coal miners, companies and unions are at the center of two of her books. Her words may be fiction, but they describe the true experiences of underground coal mining in West Virginia.

Giardina was born October 25, 1951 in Bluefield, West Virginia, and grew up in the small coal mining camp of Black Wolf, located in rural McDowell County, West Virginia, and later in Kanawha County, where she graduated from high school. Like the rest of the community, her family's survival was dependent upon the prosperity of the mine. Giardina's grandfather and uncles worked underground and her father kept the books for Page Coal and Coke. Her mother was a nurse. When the mine closed, her family moved to the state capital of Charleston. As a member of a coal-mining family, and growing up with a 1960s social consciousness, Giardina often found herself in political conflict with the people and culture around her.

Her book Storming Heaven was a Discovery Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and received the 1987 W. D. Weatherford Award for the best published work about the AppalachianSouth. The Unquiet Earth received an American Book Award and the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Her 1998 novel Saints and Villains was awarded the Boston Book Review fiction prize and was semifinalist for the International Dublin Literary Award. Giardina is an ordained Episcopal Church deacon, a community activist, and a former candidate for governor of West Virginia.

Giardina tells her stories using multiple narrators who speak in local dialect and offer different points of view. The Unquiet Earth reveals the blatant disregard of the miners and their families, by the coal companies; black Lung disease and unsafe working conditions play a part in the book.

As well as being a writer, Giardina has been an activist for environmental justice since the 1970s. She made a bid to be governor of West Virginia in 2000 as a third-party candidate, using her campaign to raise awareness about the devastating and toxic effects of mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). MTR blows off the tops of ancient mountains, exposing layers of coal. It makes mining easier, yet destroys forests and plant life, and pollutes streams. Toxic runoff from the mining process leach into communities (where people have lived for generations), forcing them to leave their homes. West Virginia´s progressive, Mountain Party, affiliated with the Green Party, sprang from Giardina's gubernatorial run.

In 2004 Giardina was the Writer-In-Residence at Hollins University and taught a course in Virginia and West Virginia fiction.

Giardina lives in Charleston and taught at West Virginia State University until 2015. In 2007 she was reinstated as an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church.

Denise Giardina's pride in her Appalachian background informs her writing and helps drive her fight to protect the mountains and people she loves. 

Interested in some of the titles mentioned here? Check out some this author's work in our ebook collection on WV Reads!

Images and info are courtesy of Google, Wikipedia, WV Reads, and author web pages.


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