Documentary Explores Economic Future of Appalachia, Through the Words of Novelist Mary Lee Settle


  This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of a series of novels called The Beulah Quintet.  The novels are by the late Mary Lee Settle, a writer who set out to capture moments in West Virginia history when a revolutionary change was at stake. Today’s economic uncertainty here in Appalachia has many people wondering whether we are also living in the midst of a transition.

Producer Catherine Moore was inspired to capture all this in an hour-long radio documentary called Cedar Grove, featured in this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia. “There’s just kind of a feeling in the air, right now, in central Appalachia, that we have reached a moment, or a crossroads, where we’re gonna have to choose a path for our future. So yeah when I discovered that aspect of Mary Lee Settle’s work it really resonated with me, as we face the projected long-term decline of coal.

“So that was a big inspiration for me to make this documentary. I wanted to explore that idea of what these times are like, and I do think that if we’re going to survive here we’re gonna have to look for new ways of being,” Moore said.

Moore said, “[Mary Lee Settle] set each of her books in her Beulah Quintet in what she called “pitch points” or “seed points”, which she thought of as moments right on the edge of a deep and profound societal change. She wanted to see the kinds of choices people were making and how those choices were impacting the future.”