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Book: Stories and Poems: A Jesse Stuart Reader
Author: Jesse Stuart
Publisher: The Jesse Stuart Foundation, republished in 2003
ISBN-13: 9780945084051 (hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0945084056 (hardcover)
ISBN-13: 9781931672245 (paperback)
ISBN: 1931672245 (paperback)
Language level: 2-3 (a few common euphemisms and one instance of cursing)
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Stuart, Jesse. Stories And Poems: A Jesse Stuart Reader (written between 1941 and 1959; collected from various sources with introductions by the author in 1963 by McGraw Hill Company, Inc.; republished as A Jesse Stuart Reader with foreword by Max Bogart, commentary and questions by Ella DeMers, and an introductory note by Jim Wayne Miller, in 1988 by the Jesse Stuart Foundation, P. O. Box 391, Ashland, KY 41114) Jesse Stuart (1906-1984) was to the hills of eastern Kentucky what Gene Stratton-Porter had been a generation earlier to the Limberlost of northern Indiana. The son of a poor farmer, he became a schoolteacher, principal, and superintendent, then left education to become a writer and lecturer. He has been a favorite author in the families of both my wife and myself. My Grandmother Workman, who was also a teacher, met him at a seminar when she was furthering her education at Rio Grande College in Ohio, and has passed down to me a book of his, Mr. Gallion’s School, which I have always liked. Karen had relatives who lived in Greenup County, KY, where Stuart was born and lived. When she was younger and visited them, they took her to Stuart’s farm, which was then open to the public as a living history demonstration. It is now a private residence and closed to the public.
This book is a collection of eighteen of his short stories, selections from three of his biographical books, and 26 short poems taken from three of his poetry books. The short stories, all based on real events which Jesse either knew personally or which were told to him, do have references to various common practices of eastern Kentuckygrowing and using tobacco, drinking whiskey, dog, cock, and bear fighting, superstitious beliefs, etc. They are not mentioned to give approval of them (in fact Jesse says that he never smoked or drank) but just to chronicle life in the Kentucky hills. Jesse does state in the biographical material that while his mother and sisters went to church, his father and he stayed home on Sundays to go out into the fields. Other than a few common euphemisms, there is no bad language except that, disappointingly, in the last short story a curse word is used twice. If you enjoy regional American fiction, you should like the works of Jesse Stuart.