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Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Jesse Stuart

eastern kentucky mountains

Eastern Kentucky mountains

Growing up in Kentucky, I think I was almost always aware of the writer Jesse Stuart:

Jesse Hilton Stuart was an American writer known for writing short stories, poetry, and novels about Southern Appalachia. Born and raised in Greenup County, Kentucky, Stuart relied heavily on the rural locale of Northeastern Kentucky for his writings. Stuart was named the Poet Laureate of Kentucky in 1954. He died at Jo-Lin nursing home in Ironton, Ohio, which is near his boyhood home.

As I think on it, I can only recall reading one of his books but it is one of those books that stayed with me. If I remember correctly, Thread That Runs So True was one of our class room books in the eighth grade. I have no idea if it is still taught in the schools today but I would guess that it is in at least some number of schools in eastern Kentucky especially. His wiki offers this about the book:

The theme of education appears often in Stuart’s books. He described the role that teaching played in his life in The Thread that Runs So True (1949), though he changed the names of places and people. He first taught school in rural Kentucky at the age of 16 at Cane Creek Elementary School, which became Lonesome Valley in his book. The Thread that Runs So True (1949) has become a classic of American education. Ruel Foster noted in 1968 that the book had good sales in its first year. At the time, he wrote, sales for the book had gone up in each successive year, an astonishing feat for any book. The book has remained continuously in print for more than 50 years.

I do know I have read a number of his short stories, some as part of anthologized volumes of Southern writers, others in the original magazines. Stuart’s writings covered novels, “autobiographical” fiction, short stories, poetry, and Young Adult.

Stuart was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1975 (from his obituary) and served as one of Kentucky’s Poet Laureates.

Just in reading a couple of the short biographies for Stuart, he was an ambassador for his region, his state, and his country.

Photo from Colin Mutchler licensed under Creative Commons

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Small town Kentucky country boy lived all over the country. Currently in Ruskin, FL