Open up a copy of Step into the Circle: Writers in Modern Appalachia, take a look at the gorgeous photography, and you will be sure to notice one thing first of all—this feels like home. Read the writer profiles, and you will be sure of it. This is, of course, not by accident. After all, Amy Greene, co-editor of SITC, is an East Tennessean, born and raised. Amy grew up in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, near Morristown, and this became the backdrop of her first, nationally bestselling novel, Bloodroot, which was followed by her second novel, Long Man. Knoxvillians who read Greene’s novels will recognize not just the type of people her characters are, but also the real towns, cities, and landmarks we know as home.
In the wake of her personal writing successes, Greene and her husband, Trent Thomson, spearheaded the anthology, Step into the Circle, with the desire to bring our attention to the great beauty of modern Appalachian writing. One of the unique things about this book is that each of the beloved Appalachian writers profiled—well-known writers like Wendell Berry, Ron Rash, and Lee Smith—were profiled by fellow Appalachian writers—like Silas House and Denton Loving—who also love and write about the people and places of our region. In the introduction to SITC, Greene writes, “I think of all writers as seers, but perhaps Appalachian writers in particular, growing up in the hollows and coves, observers of the pasture hills and valleys, of our families across the supper table and our neighbors on their way to work.” These writers—these seers—are brought to the page so that we, as Appalachian readers, can be introduced to our neighbors who have the ability to bring the reality of the lives we lead to the page, not from the position of an outsider looking in, but from a place of love and respect, two things often missing when writers address Appalachia.
Each profile is accompanied by breathtakingly beautiful photographs of both the writers who are profiled and the places where they live, from Greene’s East Tennessee farm to Wendell Berry’s front porch in eastern Kentucky. The love and respect for Appalachia is evident in each profile and every photograph. Step into the Circle: Writers in Modern Appalachia is a gift, both to Appalachia and the rest of the world.