Beginning Again: Stories of Movement and Migration in Appalachia

About the Book

Appalachia has been a place of movement and migration—for individuals, families, and entire communities—for centuries. Beginning Again brings together twelve narratives of refugees, migrants, and generations-long residents that explore complex journeys of resettlement. In their stories, Appalachia is not simply a monolithic region of poverty and strife, populated only by white people. It is a diverse place where belonging and connection are created despite displacement, resource extraction, and inequality.

Although resettlement is not new in the region, popular misunderstandings often perpetuate stereotypes of refugees and immigrants as a drain on resources—and rural Appalachians as backwards. Beginning Again adds to the growing body of works that counter damaging myths of the region.

Taken together, the stories collected here present a nuanced look at life in contemporary Appalachia.

Beginning Again: Stories of Movement and Migration in Appalachia
Narrators Include:

CLAUDINE, a Rwandan asylum seeker raised in refugee camps who graduated college into the chaos of COVID-19. Claudine is currently working as a social worker.

AMAL, a mother of six, who fled war-ravaged Syria with her family. She recounts the many challenges—including infested housing and unresponsive case workers—they navigated upon arrival in Appalachia.

MEKYAH, born and raised in Big Stone Gap, describes the “slow burn” of everyday racism and his efforts to organize Black Appalachian youth to stay in their communities.

CINDY, who arrived in the US from Mexico as a child with her family fleeing gang violence. As a teen she translated for her parents and community members, and she now works to connect newcomers with access to health care and other resources.

Related Resources

students at table engaged in oral history education
View the Lesson Plans
The curriculum promotes learning and critical thinking about Appalachia, as well as migration and displacement in general.
Book Club Discussion Questions
Use these questions to start a book club or conversation about the oral histories in Beginning Again.
Ms. Magazine
Cindy’s Story in Ms. Magazine
Read an excerpt from Cindy’s oral history about migrating from Mexico to Appalachia and building community.
Mekyah’s Story in LitHub
Read an excerpt from Mekyah’s oral history about his experiences growing up Black in Appalachia.
About the Editor:

Katrina M. Powell is a professor of rhetoric and writing and founding director of the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies at Virginia Tech.

Praise for Beginning Again:

An invitation to those here and beyond to expand our conceptions of who exists, who belongs, and who builds a loving home within these mountains.

Rae Garringer, author and editor of Country Queers: A Love Letter

In a region historically marred by displacement and stereotypes, these poignant first-person narratives reveal a stunning, multidimensional Appalachia, a chosen home that illustrates the power of belonging.

Appalshop, an Appalachian education, media, and arts organization

This book is bringing the voices, which is to say the heart, of the great people who have chosen Appalachia as our home.

Nikki Giovanni, poet, writer, and educator; winner of the Langston Hughes Medal and the NAACP Image Award

Beginning Again broadens the understanding of who is Appalachian and reveal how many seek safety in a place that is often portrayed as toxic… The stories are an approachable calling in, asking us to reckon with the inequalities in our region, but also to hold hope that our communities will provide when political and economic systems fail.”

Lesly-Marie Buer, author of Rx Appalachia