The Spine of the Virginias

Journeys on the border of Virginia and West Virginia

A mere 73 days after a ragtag South Carolina militia attacked Fort Sumter launching the War Between the States, a band of railroad executives and politicians from 27 Virginia counties met in Wheeling, then Virginia’s third largest city, and laid the foundation for our nation’s 35th state, West Virginia. Born amidst the Sturm und Drang of our nation’s most tragic and disruptive event, West Virginia is the first and only state created from another state without the parent state’s consent. The lore which emerged was purposefully designed to imbue its citizens with pride and righteous purpose. The border is as craggy and haphazard as the topography upon which it was superimposed, a beautiful, tragic, and widely misunderstood swath of the central Appalachia.

In The Spine of the Virginias, I chip away at the West Virginia formation myth. I follow with a collection of contemporary vignettes of people and places on both sides of the border of Virginia and West Virginia, in revealing looks at the interaction between a landscape and its people. Inspired by the quote, “Culture is something we think other people have,” I profile doctors, lawyers, journalists, miners, and businesspeople; senators, mayors, and gubernatorial candidates; filmmakers, musicians, and artists; beekeepers, maple syrup producers, brick sculptors, and barbarians.

This palette is infused with green and brown earthtones, the canvas is a richly corrugated and rugged parchment, and the patina is a pall of resentment, resignation, affection, divided loyalties, and constitutional ambiguities.



The Spine of the Virginias - non-fiction

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