Bluefield College is celebrating Appalachia with best-selling author and journalist Jeannette Walls, whose road to success began in McDowell County, West Virginia.
Walls, who grew up in extreme poverty in the coal community of Welch before becoming a successful columnist and award-winning author in New York, will speak on the BC campus to students and the community, Thursday, November 3 at 5:30 p.m. in Shott Hall and Friday, November 4 at 10 a.m. in Harman Chapel as part of the school’s yearlong symposium, “A Celebration of Appalachia.”
A product of a childhood that included living in a shack with no indoor plumbing, sporadic electricity and a hole in the roof, Walls overcame her hardships to eventually write about them in a memoir called The Glass Castle, which spent more than four years on the New York Times best-selling list with more than 3.5 million copies sold.
In The Glass Castle, Walls describes growing up in Appalachia with her three siblings and unorthodox, irresponsible parents who managed to neglect them, love them, and teach them to face their fears. The story is at times harrowing, yet hilarious as the children went without food, yet were encouraged to read Shakespeare and dream of the beautiful glass house they would all build one day.
Despite the adversity in Appalachia, Walls moved to New York City at age 16 to live with her older sister who had previously escaped the hardship. There, she found work, attended Barnard College, and went on to become a well-known journalist, author and television personality.
She wrote first for New York magazine and then later Esquire, USA Today, and MSNBC.com. In 2000, she published her first book, Dish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip. She also appeared regularly on The Today Show, CNN, Primetime, and The Colbert Report.
Then, in 2005, she published her memoir, The Glass Castle, which shared publicly for the first time her background in poverty and gave hope to those facing similar challenges, making them realize anything is possible.
Translated into 22 languages and named one of the Top 10 Books of the Decade by Amazon.com, The Glass Castle has been dubbed “transformative,” “incredible,” “brave” and “riveting” by critics and earned the Christopher Award, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, and the Books for Better Living Award. It has also become a popular textbook at colleges, including Bluefield College, for courses in literature, psychology, parenting, child development, and poverty.
Walls’ follow-up to The Glass Castle, Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel, was released in October 2009 and immediately became a New York Times best-seller. It has been selected by Independent Book Sellers as a “Best Read” and called an “essential reading” by Library Journal.
Speaking about her adversity and accomplishments, Walls has appeared on Prime Time Live, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Oprah, and the Diane Rheem Show. In addition, she speaks regularly at colleges, corporations, and business associations about overcoming hardship and the keys to turning adversity to your advantage. She will share that same message during her remarks to students and the community at Bluefield College on November 3-4.
The Thursday, November 3 session is a dinner gathering, which will begin with a meet-and-greet at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m., remarks from Walls at 6:45 p.m. and a book-signing at 7:30 p.m. The cost for the dinner event is $20, and reservations must be made in advance.
The Friday, November 4 event is a lecture-only session and is open and free to the public, but due to limited seating Friday tickets also must be reserved in advance.
The Walls visit is also a part of Bluefield College’s yearlong series of events designed to celebrate the history, culture, people and traditions of Appalachia. Open to the campus community and community at-large, “A Celebration of Appalachia” features lectures, concerts, exhibits, discussions, movies, theatre, field trips, and other educational and entertaining activities designed to honor the Appalachian heritage.
“From the people, the work ethic, the loyalties and the challenges, to the natural beauty, the traditions, the music and the food, Appalachia is a fascinating and beautiful culture,” said BC President David Olive. “Author Jeff Biggers once said, ‘you can’t understand America until you understand Appalachia.’ Our desire through this yearlong symposium is to increase the understanding and appreciation for the region in which we live. We hope everyone will join us in this educational and entertaining venture, in this celebration of Appalachia.”
Other events scheduled and confirmed for this fall as part of “Celebrate Appalachia” include:
— “The Quilters,” a theatrical production, Friday through Monday, October 14-17, 7:30 p.m. each night (except 2 p.m. Sunday matinee), Harman Chapel
— Billy Dean concert, Thursday, November 3 at 7:30p.m., Harman Chapel
— Lecture by Concord University’s Terry Mullins, Appalachian studies historian and author, Monday, November 7, 10 a.m.
— “Thugs, Hillbillies and Heroes: The Untold Story of Bluefield’s Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency,” presented by Bluefield, West Virginia, resident and author/historian John A. Velke III, author of “The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency,” Monday, November 7 at 7 p.m. in Shott Hall A&B
— Instrumental music concert, Thursday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m. in Harman Chapel
— “Opera Theatre: Scenes from Appalachia,” Friday, November 18, 7:30 p.m., Harman Chapel
— “From Seeds to Songs,” a music workshop hosted by Andrew McKnight and Beyond Borders, Saturday, November 19 at 1 p.m., Harman Chapel
— “Beyond Appalachian, Beyond Blues, Beyond Folk,” a music concert, Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 p.m., Harman Chapel
— “An Appalachian Christmas,” presented by BC’s Masterworks Chorale, Thursday, December 1, 7:30 p.m., Harman Chapel
— “Appalachian News,” an art show presented by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph’s Bill Archer, December 9-February 16, BC Art Gallery, Lansdell Hall
For more information regarding events that are part of “A Celebration of Appalachia” at Bluefield College, contact the Public Relations Office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 276-326-4212.