Thursday, March 30, 2023

Q&A with Kami Ahrens




Kami Ahrens is the editor of the new book The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Women. She is curator and director of education at the Foxfire Museum in Rabun County, Georgia.


Q: What was the inspiration for this book?


A: The idea for this book came after spending time reading the Foxfire books and magazines and researching in the organization's archive. There were so many powerful stories from women that carried similar themes but were scattered across publications and archival materials.


This book weaves together a small selection of oral histories in a way that presents an in-depth look at women’s experiences in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. 


Q: Sandra L. Ballard of Appalachian State University said of the book, "These complex, powerful narratives expand our perspectives on this region and the women who live there, particularly offering counternarratives to those who romanticize Appalachia or otherwise misrepresent mountain residents." What do you think of that description?


A: Sandra's description captures one of the goals for this book. To this day, Appalachia continues to be mischaracterized by pervasive stereotypes that overlook the richness of experiences in the mountains. The stories presented in this volume seek to dispel monolithic ideas of women in Appalachia and introduce the reader to the diversity of the region.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this collection of voices?


A: I hope readers step away with a better understanding of the richness of Appalachian culture, but also hope they find comfort and inspiration in these stories of resiliency.


Most of all, I hope this book encourages readers to start their own conversations or oral histories. Sharing stories strengthens our relationships and brings us to common ground, building stronger and more resilient selves and communities.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently working on developing a crowdsourced oral history project to supplement the voices of the book. This will launch at the end of February and offer any person in or from the Southern Appalachian region to share a memory or story of themselves or a woman they know in the mountains.


The book is intended to be a foundation for inspiring community and family conversations, and to bring awareness to the diversity of our experiences in this area. I invite all interested readers to visit for more information.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Foxfire at its heart is a community-based project led by students. We are committed to engaging people of all ages in intergenerational learning through the sharing of stories and experiences. All book sales support our work in and around Rabun County, Georgia.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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