Family of Earth: A Southern Mountain Childhood by Wilma Dykeman
"As is true of so many writers from western North Carolina, Wilma Dykeman’s fiction played an important role in my development, and the publication of a work we did not even know existed is cause for celebration. This precocious memoir shows a young author finding her voice as she describes a childhood whose seismic event was the death of a beloved father. Family of Earth is a valuable addition to understanding Dykeman and her later work, but it is also a fascinating, deeply moving account of a writer’s developing sensibility."
—Ron Rash, author of Above the Waterfall
"Wilma Dykeman is indeed a 'tall woman' who has cast her long shadow over many other Appalachian women writers, especially me, inspired early on by both her beautiful writing and her social conscience. Family of Earth is a revelation; here is a little poet, an only child raised in relative isolation who knew her parents as friends, who lived and breathed the mountains and the whole natural world around her—this extraordinary childhood clearly informed the woman she would become, what she would do and write. I will place this book next to Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings on my shortest and most important bookshelf."
—Lee Smith, author of Dimestore: A Writer’s Life
“A captivating, poetic, difficult-to-categorize book that abundantly showcases the author’s talent for making words dance. Anyone who has lived in the countryside, or wished they had, will enjoy Dykeman’s celebration of nature.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Discovered as a typewritten manuscript only after her death in 2006, Family of Earth allows us to see into the young mind of author and Appalachian native Wilma Dykeman (1920–2006), who would become one of the American South’s most prolific and storied writers. Focusing on her childhood in Buncombe County, Dykeman reveals a perceptive and sophisticated understanding of human nature, the environment, and social justice. And yet, for her words’ remarkable polish, her voice still resonates as raw and vital. Against the backdrop of early twentieth-century life in Asheville, she chronicles the touching, at times harrowing, story of her family’s fortunes, plotting their rise and fall in uncertain economic times and ending with her father’s sudden death in 1934 when she was fourteen years old.
Featuring a new foreword by fellow North Carolinian and NC Literary Hall of Fame inductee Robert Morgan, Family of Earth stands as a new major literary work by a groundbreaking author.
Wilma Dykeman was a novelist, historian, journalist, educator, speaker, and environmentalist who pioneered in the areas of water pollution, civil rights, oral history, Appalachian studies, and the empowerment of women. She was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 1998.