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Discover West Virginia Authors at the OCPL

Posted 06/20/22

Discover West Virginia Authors at the OCPL

West Virginia is a state that takes pride in storytelling traditions and "liar" contests, complete with golden shovel awards. Storytelling in the state has historically been used to communicate family genealogy, regional history, and even state legends - like John Henry. So it may not be surprising that the state has produced numerous acclaimed authors that have continued this tradition in their own form. 

Libby has comprised over one-hundred and thirty titles by West Virginia authors that are available for you to discover now with your Ohio County Public library card! The collection includes Nobel-prize award winning author Pearl S. Buck of Hillsboro, former Congressman Ken Hechler, and many more. 

West Virginia Authors Collection on Libby

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

Born in Keyser, WV - Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-four books and created twenty-one documentary films, including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, and Africa’s Great Civilizations. Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its sixth season on PBS, has been called “one of the deepest and wisest series ever on television,” leveraging “the inherent entertainment capacity of the medium to educate millions of Americans about the histories and cultures of our nation and the world.”

Professor Gates’s six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form, as well as the Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and NAACP Image Award. His latest projects are the history series, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War (PBS, 2019), winner of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and the related books, Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow, with Tonya Bolden (Scholastic, 2019), and Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (Penguin Random House, 2019), a New York Times Notable Book of 2019.

Having written for such leading publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times,and Time, Professor Gates serves as chairman of, a daily online magazine he co-founded in 2008, and chair of the Creative Board of FUSION TV. He oversees the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field, and has received grant funding to develop a Finding Your Roots curriculum to teach students science through genetics and genealogy. In 2012, The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection of his writings edited by Abby Wolf, was published.

The recipient of fifty-six honorary degrees and numerous prizes, Professor Gates was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation in 1981, and in 1998, he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He was named to Time’s 25 Most Influential Americans list in 1997, to Ebony’s Power 150 list in 2009, and to Ebony’sPower 100 list in 2010 and 2012. He earned his B.A. in History, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge in 1979. In 2018, he was one of 15 alumni of African descent honored in the exhibition, Black Cantabs: History Makers, at the Cambridge University Library. He also is an Honorary Fellow, Clare College, at the University of Cambridge.

Professor Gates has directed the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research—now the Hutchins Center—since arriving at Harvard in 1991, and during his first fifteen years on campus, he chaired the Department of Afro-American Studies as it expanded into the Department of African and African American Studies with a full-fledged doctoral program. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards, including the New York Public Library, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Aspen Institute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Library of America, and the Brookings Institution. In 2017, the Organization of American States named Gates a Goodwill Ambassador for the Rights of People of African Descent in the Americas. In 2011, his portrait, by Yuqi Wang, was hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Source)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. collection on Libby 

Ruth Ann Musick - September 17, 1897-July 2, 1974

Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick was born in Kirksville, Missouri. She earned a B.S. in education from the Kirksville State Teacher’s College and an M.S. from the State University of Iowa. After teaching school, she earned a Ph.D. in English from the State University of Iowa in 1943. While there, folklorist Edwin Ford Piper first interested her in folklore.

Musick brought this interest to West Virginia. She came to teach mathematics and English at Fairmont State College (now Fairmont State University) in 1946 and remained until her retirement in 1967. She started a folk literature class at the college and in 1950 helped to revive the West Virginia Folklore Society, with Walter Barnes of Fairmont State and Patrick Gainer of West Virginia University. In 1951, she founded the West Virginia Folklore Journal and served as editor until 1967.

Musick became West Virginia’s folklore ambassador, promoting folklore through education, public speaking, radio, and television. She published four major folktale collections: Ballads, Folk Songs, and Folk Tales From West Virginia; The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales; Green Hills of Magic, West Virginia Folktales From Europe; and Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales. She wrote two popular folklore columns for West Virginia newspapers, ‘‘The Old Folks Say’’ and ‘‘Sassafras Tea.’’

Musick died in Fairmont. She bequeathed to Fairmont State her unpublished folklore estate, now archived in the West Virginia Folklife Center at the university. In 1980, the university library was renamed the Ruth Ann Musick Library. (Source)

The Telltale Lilac Bush 

Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales 

Green Hills of Magic 

Homer Hickam 

Homer H. Hickam, Jr. was born on February 19, 1943, the second son of Homer and Elsie Hickam, and was raised in Coalwood, West Virginia. He graduated from Big Creek High School in 1960 and from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) in 1964 with a BS degree in Industrial Engineering. A U.S. Army veteran, Mr. Hickam served as a First Lieutenant in the Fourth Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1967-1968 where he won the Army Commendation and Bronze Star medals. He served six years on active duty, leaving the service with the rank of Captain.

Hickam has been a writer since 1969 after his return from Vietnam. At first, he mostly wrote about his scuba diving adventures for a variety of different magazines. Then, after diving on many of the wrecks involved, he branched off into writing about the battle against the U-boats along the American east coast during World War II. This resulted in his first book, Torpedo Junction (1989), a military history best-seller published in 1989 by the Naval Institute Press.

In 1998, Delacorte Press published Hickam’s second book, Rocket Boys: A Memoir, the story of his life in the little town of Coalwood, West Virginia. It became an instant classic. Rocket Boys has since been translated into eight languages and also released as an abridged audio book and electronic book. Among it’s many honors, it was selected by the New York Times as one of its “Great Books of 1998” and was an alternate “Book-of-the-Month” selection for both the Literary Guild and Doubleday book clubs. Rocket Boys was also nominated by the National Book Critics Circle as Best Biography of 1998. In February, 1999, Universal Studios released its critically-acclaimed film October Sky, based on Rocket Boys (The title October Sky is an anagram of Rocket Boys). Delacorte subsequently released a mass market paperback of Rocket Boys, re-titled October Sky. October Sky reached the New York Times # 1 position on their best-seller list.

Mr. Hickam’s first fiction novel was Back to the Moon (1999) that was also simultaneously released as a hardcover, audio book, and eBook. It has also been translated into Chinese.

The Coalwood Way (2000), a memoir of Mr. Hickam’s hometown he calls “not a sequel but an equal,” was published by Delacorte Press and is available in abridged audio, eBook, large print and Japanese. It was an alternate “Book-of-the-Month” selection for Doubleday book club. His third Coalwood memoir, a true sequel, was published in October 2001. It is titled Sky of Stone (2001).  An associated book about Coalwood was published in 2002, a self help/inspirational tome titled We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage from the Town That Inspired the #1 Bestseller and Award-Winning Movie October Sky.

Mr. Hickam is also the author of a popular series of novels that feature Josh Thurlow, a Coast Guard officer during World War II. The series began with The Keeper’s Son (2003), and then continued with The Ambassador’s Son (2005) and The Far Reaches (2007). To meet the requests from publishers for a Young Adult series, Homer also wrote his Helium-3 novels titled Crater, Crescent, and Crater Trueblood and the Lunar Rescue Company. These two series have been heavily praised by critics and readers as have Homer’s novel about a coal miner’s wife in Red Helmet, and a thriller set in modern-day Montana titled The Dinosaur Hunter.

In 2017 the critically acclaimed “nearly true family legend” Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, his Wife, and her Alligator was published as the 5th book settled in Coalwood.

While working on his writing career, Mr. Hickam was employed as an engineer for the U.S. Army Missile Command from 1971 to 1981 assigned to Huntsville, Alabama, and Germany. He began employment with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Marshall Space Flight Center in 1981 as an aerospace engineer. During his NASA career, Mr. Hickam worked in spacecraft design and crew training. His specialties at NASA included training astronauts on science payloads, and extravehicular activities (EVA). He also trained astronaut crews for many Spacelab and Space Shuttle missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope deployment mission, the first two Hubble repair missions, Spacelab-J (the first Japanese astronauts), and the Solar Max repair mission. Prior to his retirement in 1998, Mr. Hickam was the Payload Training Manager for the International Space Station Program.

In 1984, Mr. Hickam was presented with Alabama’s Distinguished Service Award for heroism shown during a rescue effort of the crew and passengers of a sunken paddleboat in the Tennessee River. Because of this award, Mr. Hickam was honored in 1996 by the United States Olympic Committee to carry the Olympic Torch through Huntsville, Alabama, on its way to Atlanta.

Mr. Hickam has received many awards and honors. Among them are the prestigious University of Alabama’s Clarence Cason Award and the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award for his memoirs and fiction. He also received an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Marshall University.

Mr. Hickam is married to Linda Terry Hickam, an artist and his first editor and assistant. They love their cats and share their time between homes in Alabama and the Virgin Islands.

Homer Hickam Website 

Rocket Boys 

Homer Hickam Collection on Libby

Marc Harshman, Poet Laureate of West Virginia

Harshman’s fourteenth children’s book, FALLINGWATER, co-written with Anna Smucker, was published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan in 2017 and has been an Amazon Book of the Month choice, as well as a Junior Library Guild selection.  A previous title, THE STORM, was a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children.  Children’s books have been translated into Danish, Korean, Swedish, Spanish, and Japanese. His latest collection of poems, WOMAN IN RED ANORAK, won the 2017 Blue Lynx Prize and was published by Lynx House/University of Washington Press in 2018. His poetry collection, BELIEVE WHAT YOU CAN,  published in 2016 by West Virginia University Press, won the Weatherford Award from the Appalachian Studies Association. It was also named the Appalachian Book of the Year by the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival in Tennessee.  Poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, the University of Iowa, University of Georgia, SPM Publications [London], and the University of Arizona. He has also just been named the co-winner of the 2019 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award for this poem, “Poet in the Schools.”

He holds degrees from Bethany College, Yale Divinity School, and the University of Pittsburgh. In the spring of 2016 he was an invited reader at the Greenwich Book Festival in London and recently returned from performing with Doug Van Gundy a show titled, Running with Whiskey, highlighting poetry, music, and storytelling at the Red House Arts Centre in Wales.  Appointed in 2012, he is the seventh poet laureate of West Virginia.

Harshman’s newest collection of poems, THE SHADOW TESTIMONIES, has just been scheduled for publication by the Irish publisher, Salmon Press, in County Clare, Republic of Ireland.

Marc Harshman Website 


Davis Grubb - July 23, 1919 - July 24, 1980

Born in Moundsville, West Virginia, Grubb wanted to combine his creative skills as a painter with writing, and attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, his color blindness was a handicap he could not overcome and he gave up on painting to dedicate himself to writing fiction. He did, however, make a number of drawings and sketches during the course of his career, some of which were incorporated into his writings.

In 1940, Grubb moved to New York City where he worked at NBC radio as a writer while using his free time to write short stories. In the mid-1940s he was successful in selling several short stories to major magazines and in the early 1950s he started writing a full-length novel. Influenced by accounts of economic hardship by depression-era Americans that his mother had seen firsthand as a social worker, Grubb produced a dark tale that mixed the plight of poor children and adults with that of the evil inflicted by others. The Night of the Hunter became an instant bestseller and was voted a finalist for the 1955 National Book Award. That same year, the book was made into a motion picture that is now regarded as a classic. Deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Grubb went on to write a further nine novels and several collections of short stories. His 1969 novel Fools' Parade would also be made into a motion picture starring James Stewart. Some of Grubb's short stories were adapted for television by Alfred Hitchcock and by Rod Serling for his Night Gallery series.

Grubb died in New York City in 1980. His novel Ancient Lights was published posthumously in 1982, and St. Martins Press published 18 of his short stories in a book collection titled You Never Believe Me and Other Stories in 1989.

Night of the Hunter


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