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Useful Notes: Appalachia
A Useful Notes page about Appalachia
(permanent link) added: 2012-04-06 21:12:09 sponsor: PulpFreeBookworm edited by: Dalillama (last reply: 2014-02-02 15:23:40)

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The region of the United States known as Appalachia is commonly under or misrepresented in media, and Unfortunate Implications often result. The basics:
  • It covers all of West Virginia, a good chunk of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Eastern Kentucky, as well as parts of Virginia, Tennessee , Georgia, North Carolina and Western Maryland.
  • Pittsburgh is the biggest metro area inside Appalachia proper, but Washington, DC and Atlanta abut it, and Columbus, OH and Louisville, KY are an easy drive from WV. Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling (all in WV), Knoxville and Johnson City (all in TN), and the Roanoke-Blacksburg-Christiansburg area (technically just outside the poverty area) in Virginia are important smaller cities. Quite a few people from WV ended up in either Columbus or Washington, DC.
  • Characterized by isolation, poverty, and coal mining. Historically, inbreeding was as big of a problem there as it was in several European royal families. The "blue people" of Kentucky are a famous case of a recessive gene showing up due to this. In Hollywood Appalachia, inbreeding is still a major thing; see Unfortunate Implications. Various health problems due to both the coal dust, the abysmal poverty and the genetic weirdnesses are common; one thing you'll notice about the area is how many hospitals they have relative to the population. The coming of TV and radio in the mid-20th century helped to break the isolation somewhat (though WV's terrain makes reception a problem without a lot of repeaters), and the construction of Interstates 64, 77, and 79 (the former only completed in 1988) opened up the barely-touched interior of West Virginia to the masses.
  • The northern edges of Appalachia (especially Pittsburgh, but also the WV cities) are part of the Rust Belt, and share those issues as well.
  • Quite a few of the little towns in the hills are "coal camps", company towns built especially to serve a mine in the immediate vicinity. As the mines closed in the 1970s and 1980s, the towns died out, and many of them are Ghost Towns now.
  • The region is also notorious for its' production of Moonshine; alcoholic beverages made by locals without any kind of regulation. Came to prominence during prohibition, and still continues to this day. The remote, isolated geography of the region makes it ideal because moonshiners can easily conceal their operations from authorities.
  • Aside from all that, the area is popular for tourism because of the tall mountains and deep ridges; the Appalachians are quite literally an older, shorter version of the Rockies, and comparisons have been made to Switzerland (though I always thought of the greener parts of California, myself). One very popular reason for visiting is to hike the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, usually simply referred to as the Appalachian Trail. The Trail is a 2,200 mile hiking and camping route. However, mountaintop-removal mining has been spoiling the view in several places, despite efforts to combat it.

Tropes relating to/ in works about Appalachia

  • Bad Ass Driver: A trait stereotypically associated with the Hillbilly Moonshiners and their Cool Cars. After all, you need to be able to handle that suped up hot rod on bad roads to outrun the law.
  • Company Town:In many areas of Appalachia, coal mining is the only significant economic activity, and coal companies created a lot of these throughout the area.
  • Cool Car: Moonshiners were prone to suping up their vehicles the better to outrun and outmaneuver lawmen. This eventually gave rise to stock car racing, and ultimately NASCAR.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: Appalachia is the source of many of the associated stereotypes, and home to a lot of moonshiners

Works set in Appalachia

  • October Sky is about some boys from a West Virgina coal town seeking to win a science scholarship for rocketry.
  • Sharyn Mc Crumb's Ballad Novels are a series of mysteries that take place in and around a small Appalachian community.
  • Aaron Copland's ballet Appalachian Spring, about the folk celebrating after building a barn, takes a more idealized view of the region.
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