For the past couple of years, I’ve been adding this phrase to my bio:
I am a seventh generation West Virginian.
It is increasingly uncommon to hear that phrase from anyone. America has always been a moveable feast of individuals or families: to something more lucrative, more suitable, something to make them better, happier, or to run away from who knows what.
In wondering why my family has stayed so long in one place, a fanciful answer came with the recent discovery of my maiden name’s etymology: Hodges. It comes from the patrimonic name Hodge, and is traced to Middle English, meaning: a rustic, a farmer. Both my parents’ families have been tied closely to the land as a way of surviving, even given the uneven ground in our mountainous state. Gifted at finding flat, fertile land up hollows and around bends, my ancestors bought large acreage and made it all work in agrarian or timbering pursuits until mid 20th century, when the working men sought work in the gas and aluminum industries in order to support their families.
But as in many states, the natural resources and industry fell away or changed, leading to a road elsewhere
Until we launch a greater effort to caretake this great state, West-by-God Virginia, as we fondly reference it, take a gander as you pass through. And if you linger a bit longer, you’ll see the true wealth—our people: friendly, considerate, warm and fuzzy, as a friend from Pennsylvania calls us. We can be as rumpled anduneven as our land, but overall, we’re a pretty swell group. Come on over and see for yourself.
While you’re studying our land and us, take a read of our literature. We have world-class authors from here: Mary Lee Settle, Jayne Ann Phillips, Denise Giardina, Jeanette Walls, to name a few. Maybe it’s the rugged land and gentle valleys that create a juxtaposition that fosters dichotomies and dialogues. We know how to mix it up in our stories. We aim to entertain, from the pages to the land and back again.
Just recently, I learned West Virginia University Press is going to publish my memoir, Riding on Comets: a memoir. Pretty cool! In it, you’ll see what I’m talking about: Lots of working class family stuff, mixing it up and taking it on, relationships on the edge and family members who are just . . . edgy. I grew up and loved and continue to love every one of these giants growing up in this amazing state. You’ll find much of what I’m talking about in my memoir, and it’ll be available April 2015. www.catpleska.com and http://catpleska53.wordpress.com/ (West Virginia Literary Soul Blog).
(all info provided by author)