The Western North Carolina Historical Association (WNCHA) is launching a new book discussion group this fall, with guided river floats and hikes to follow the virtual sessions. Held via Zoom, WNCHA will host two discussions of the first and most recent books to win the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. Since 1955, this award is presented annually by the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Committee and WNCHA for the book that embodies excellence in literature about Western North Carolina or by local authors. Winning entries range from fiction, to memoirs, and even academic works of history. In preparation of revealing this year’s winning book in November, WNCHA hopes to showcase the spirit of the award by revisiting Wilma Dykeman’s 1955 history The French Broad and the 2019 Back of Beyond: A Horace Kephart Biography co-written by George Ellison and Janet McCue. According to WNCHA Public Programs Director Trevor Freeman “Both works exemplify the history of interaction between humans, locals and newcomers, and the natural environment of Western North Carolina. What better way to understand these subjects and authors than to explore the rivers and peaks they studied and even helped protect?”
The first Lit Café will be on Thursday, September 10 from 2:30-3:00pm via Zoom. Jim Stokely will discuss the research, writing, and legacy of Wilma Dykeman’s 1955 The French Broad, published at a time when the river and several of its tributaries were choked with and threatened by pollution. Shortly after, on Saturday, September 12, WNCHA and Montreat College’s Outdoor Recreation Studies department are partnering to offer a guided paddle of a popular French Broad section embodying Dykeman’s work.
The second Lit Café will be hosted Thursday, October 8 from 2:30-3:30pm again via Zoom. Co-authors George Ellison, Janet McCue, and their editor Frances Figart of the Great Smoky Mountains Association will discuss their research and insights into the prominent author and outdoorsman Horace Kephart, subject of their 2019 book Back of Beyond: A Horace Kephart Biography. The following Saturday, October 10, WNCHA will lead a guided hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see sites associated with Kephart, a pivotal voice in the protection and creation of the park.
The Lit Café sessions are free to WNCHA members and available on a sliding scale of $5-15 per meeting for non-members. After the event, these programs will be available as recordings. The outdoor programs to follow the book discussions are priced at $35 for WNCHA members and $50 for non-members.
For more details, and for mandatory pre-registration, visit WNChistory.org/events.