Writers, Playwrights And Filmmakers Who Confront The Complexities Of Appalachian Life


The story of Appalachia can’t be summarized in one book, one article or one movie. Our region goes beyond just ill-considered stereotypes.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll learn about people who are digging beneath the surface, telling authentic stories about life in Appalachia. From a woman who’s helping write a new TV show about the opioid crisis, to a community theater company in Harlan County, Kentucky that produced a play called “Shift Change.” It confronts racism, and neighbors who stand on opposite sides of politics. In this episode we’ll hear from writers, playwrights, filmmakers and storytellers who confront the complexities of life here in Appalachia. They share why we should be proud of these complexities, and be willing to learn something new about Appalachia — even those of us who live here.

In This Episode:


June Leffler/ WVPB
"Her Hope Haven" was filmed in Charleston at Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Her Hope Haven

“Her Hope Haven” is a new project from West Virginia filmmaker Tijah Bumgardner. The show is currently a pilot and may become a TV series. It’s a fictional series that explores the opioid crisis from the point of view of people who are inside the recovery process, but the stories are based on real-life experiences of those who’ve come through the process themselves. West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s health reporter, June Leffler, went to the set and has this story.

Higher Ground

A local theater company in Harlan County, Kentucky called “Higher Ground” decided to make a play about 2020. For the cast, that meant coming to terms with a difficult year — from COVID-19 to police violence. When the ensemble decided to cover the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, a lot of feelings came up. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Katie Myers spoke with cast members and creators on how they reckoned with race, religion and community in their play called “Shift Change.”

Twilight In Hazard

Alan Maimon is an award-winning journalist who lived in and reported on Eastern Kentucky in the early 2000’s. He recently published a book, called “Twilight in Hazard: An Appalachian Reckoning,” which looks at how the past and current events might play into the future of the region. Co-host Caitlin Tan talked with Maimon about the book.


When Nicole Riegel was growing up in Appalachian Ohio, she couldn’t wait to get out. As an adult writer and film director, the place drew her back and she found herself re-connecting with her town and community in unexpected ways. The result is a film called “Holler.” Katie Myers spoke with the filmmaker about leaving, and returning to, your small hometown.


Courtesy photo
Bonnie Proudfoot is the author of the novel "Goshen Road."

Goshen Road

Author Bonnie Proudfoot began working on her new novel “Goshen Road” nearly 25 years ago, but she said she had to get older before she had the confidence to finish it. The story follows two teenage sisters growing up in the 60s in West Virginia. Proudfoot sat down with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Eric Douglas to talk about the novel. Proudfoot’s “Goshen Road” is now available. It was longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Hemingway Award for Best Debut Novel.

Gun Violence

The year 2021 is the deadliest for gun violence in America — and this is playing out in West Virginia’s capitol city. A group recently gathered at a local park in downtown Charleston, West Virginia to raise awareness about the problem. Kyle Vass was there and brought back this story.


W.Va.’s Teacher Of The Year

As we all know, during the past year, school looked very different. Now we’re finding that a lot of kids fell behind and teachers are burned out. So we wanted to hear from the teachers themselves — and who better than the West Virginia Teacher of the Year Erin Anderson. Anderson is a 5th grade teacher at Tennerton Elementary School in Upshur County. She spoke with our education reporter Liz McCormick.

Saunders and Eugene

Trey Kay
Eugene Barker looks after the needs of Saunders Cleage. Fifteen years ago, Cleage had a stroke and ever since, Barker has been his full-time caregiver.

We’d love to hear from you about your experience with school. Whether you’re a teacher, a student or a parent, tell us how you’re doing. What’s keeping you up at night? What are you hopeful for? You can email us at or leave us a voicemail at (304)-207-0551.

W.Va.’s Growing Elder Population

The Mountain State is home to a lot of older folks. More than 20 percent of the state’s population is over 65 and we are seeing signs of a crisis in care. While our average age is going up, the number of younger workers is going down. And that’s a challenge for senior care facilities and home care companies.

In the new episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay looks at the care continuum. We listen to an excerpt on this week’s episode.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Wes Swing, Nathan Ell and Dog and Gun.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.