They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History by Alessandro Portelli

They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History

byAlessandro Portelli

Paperback | July 30, 2012

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Made famous in the 1976 documentary Harlan County USA, this pocket of Appalachian coal country has been home to generations of miners - and to some of the most bitter labor battles of the 20th century. It has also produced a rich tradition of protest songs and a wealth of fascinating cultureand custom that has remained largely undiscovered by outsiders, until now.They Say in Harlan County is not a book about coal miners so much as a dialogue in which more than 150 Harlan County women and men tell the story of their region, from pioneer times through the dramatic strikes of the 1930s and '70s, up to the present. Alessandro Portelli draws on 25 years oforiginal interviews to take readers into the mines and inside the lives of those who work, suffer, and often die in them - from black lung, falling rock, suffocation, or simply from work that can be literally backbreaking. The book is structured as a vivid montage of all these voices - stoic,outraged, grief-stricken, defiant - skillfully interwoven with documents from archives, newspapers, literary works, and the author's own participating and critical voice. Portelli uncovers the whole history and memory of the United States in this one symbolic place, through settlement, civil war,slavery, industrialization, immigration, labor conflict, technological change, migration, strip mining, environmental and social crises, and resistance. And as hot-button issues like mountain-top removal and the use of "clean coal" continue to hit the news, the history of Harlan County - especiallyas seen through the eyes of those who lived it - is becoming increasingly important. With rare emotional immediacy, gripping narratives, and unforgettable characters, They Say in Harlan County tells the real story of a culture, the resilience of its people, and the human costs of coal mining.

About The Author

Alessandro Portelli is Professor of American Literature at the University of Rome-La Sapienza. He is the author of The Death of Luigi Trastulli: Form and Meaning in Oral History; The Text and the Voice: Speaking, Writing, and Democracy in American Literature; The Battle of Valle Giulia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue; and The Ord...

Details & Specs

Title:They Say in Harlan County: An Oral HistoryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:456 pages, 6.1 × 9.09 × 1.18 inPublished:July 30, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199934851

ISBN - 13:9780199934850

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Harlan County, 1964-2007: A love story1. The Bear and the Sycamore Tree2. Of Hardship and Love3. Wars and Peace4. These Signs Shall Follow Them5. Flush Times and Rough Times6. A Space of Their Own7. Miner's Life8. Identities9. No Neutrals there10. God, Guns, and Guts11. Harlan on Our Minds12. Exodus13. The Other America14. Democracy and the Mines15. Staying AlivePeople I OweNotesThe NarratorsIndex