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They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History (Oxford Oral History Series) [Kindle Edition]

Alessandro Portelli
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

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 culture and 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 of original 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--especially as 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.

Product Description

Review

They Say in Harlan County is a multi-vocal exploration of three centuries of Harlan County history: foundation narratives of eighteenth century conquest and pioneer settlement through tales of the Civil War and its aftermath of industrialization, vivid recollections of racial violence and labor struggles, stories of the mid-twentieth century devastation of the region by strip-mining, outmigration, the War on Poverty, the corruption of the United Mine Worker leadership, and the struggle over compensation for black lung. (Western Folklore)

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 Order Has Already Been Carried Out: History, Memory and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome, shich won Italy's prestigious Viareggio Book Prize.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1112 KB
  • Print Length: 456 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199735689
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (13 Oct. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Y4UT7C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #846,938 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 16 July 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Story of Harlan -- and America as Well . . . 14 May 2011
By ElkoJohn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I worked in Harlan Kentucky as a mining engineer from 1976 to 1978. Two years out of college and looking for a better salary, I went into coal mining without any knowledge of the region or it's history. Before completing college, I had worked in the steel mills as a member of the United Steel Workers union and as a mine surveyor and member of the Operating Engineers -- so I wasn't anti-union. I left Harlan in 1978 after a drive-by shooting of my house. A few years later, I saw the documentary ''Harlan County USA,'' which was filmed prior to my arrival in Harlan. It was then that realized what I had gotten myself into. Being a history buff, I bought this book on a whim to see what else I could learn about Harlan County. Wow, what a book it is. The author is Italian and brought a perspective to American oral history that is truly amazing. I felt like I was re-living the history of Appalachia from the days of Daniel Boone to the present. But more than that, this book turned out to be a history of racism, segregation, and the wars of labor, class, poverty and drugs in America. And even more than that, it gives a glimpse into the American psyche. For example, the communist led National Miners Union helped the coal miners to survive the beginning of the Great Depression (whereas the United Mine Workers union told the miners there was no money to help them). But eventually, the NMU lost the support of the miners, and had to leave Harlan County because their rivals and opponents labeled them ''un-American'' and ''anti-God.'' Anyway, I love history, and I love this book of oral history -- perhaps you will too.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family History 9 Nov. 2012
By live2love4 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was sceptical when I purchased this book. I bought it as a gift for my mother who was born a coal miner's daughter in Harlan County in the early 50's. Two of my uncles were miners also. My mother and her family rarely speak of that time in their lives. I knew they had faced a lot of fears and overcome many hardships. At least I thought I knew.... until I read this book along with her. There is no truer way to record the history of any place: if you want to know what happened in Harlan County, ask the people who lived in Harlan. Not only did the narrators remember the events that occurred, they tell how it impacted the lives of everyone they knew and recall how they felt about it at the time. I learned how it impacted my family. This book told me all the things that went unsaid in my grandparent's house when my cousins and I asked questions about Pappy's mining days. The true judgment on this book came from my mother. As we finished reading the introduction, she said,"You're uncle Clarence needs to read this." And he will, because I'm buying him a copy too.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful place, beautiful people of courage 5 Feb. 2011
By Bozemaniac - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the best oral history book I've ever read. The author is an Italian who sees things and hears things that would not have been possible for an American to see and hear.
Harlan County is such a beautiful spot; it has been ravaged by coal companies and their violent thugs; but the people survive and thrive and celebrate life and survival and hope. This is, in the end, a story of the human spirit, the power of faith, and the importance of community. Beautifully told, these stories are unforgettable.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and Insightful 1 Mar. 2013
By Gouverneur - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this work to be perhaps the most compelling book I have read in some years. Portelli gives voice to a people whose voices are seldom heard, or truly listened to, except as caricatures and stereotypes. He endows their struggles over the decades, indeed centuries, with a certain nobility. Portelli spent over two decades compiling this oral history and unifies a multitude of voices with his insightful narrative and analysis. He is an outsider who became an insider and shares this inside with us.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great gift for my Dad! 18 Jun. 2014
By Kate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I bought this book for my Dad for Father's Day. He's from Harlan County, KY and loves this history associated with it. I called him today (3 days after Father's Day) and he was reading it at that time, on page 107. He said the book was wonderful and he could not put it down. My dad is from Evarts and I think from the first sentence, where it begins in Evarts, he was thrilled. I ordered this as one day shipping on a Friday at 12pm. He received it on Saturday at 2pm, beautifully gift wrapped (I chose that option) and was very excited.
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