New VOW Book Amplifies Oral Histories of Community and Migration in Appalachia, Disrupting Harmful Stereotypes

Beginning Again: Stories of Movement and Migration in Appalachia launches on June 20th!

The latest in the Voice of Witness book series, Beginning Again is edited by Katrina Powell with a foreword from Nikki Giovanni. The project brings together first-person narratives of refugees, migrants, and generations-long residents that explore complex journeys of resettlement. In their stories, Appalachia is not a monolithic region of white poverty stuck in the past. It is a diverse place where belonging and connection are created despite displacement, resource extraction, and inequality.

Appalachia has been a place of movement and migration—for individuals, families, and entire communities— for centuries. Although resettlement is not new in the region, popular misunderstandings often perpetuate stereotypes of immigrants as a drain on resources and of rural Appalachians as backwards. 

Taken together, these stories present a more nuanced look at life in contemporary Appalachia, expand our ideas of who belongs, and add to the growing body of works that counter damaging myths of the region. The collection asks how we might ensure equity and belonging, both for people who have lived locally for generations and for those newly arrived.

Telling their stories in their own words, you’ll hear from:

  • Claudine Katete, a Rwandan asylum seeker raised in refugee camps who resettled in Virginia, graduated college into the chaos of COVID-19, and now works as a social worker helping families navigate social assistance programs;
  • Amal, a mother of six, who fled war-ravaged Syria and navigated infested housing and unresponsive case workers upon arrival;
  • Mekyah Davis, an eighth-generation Appalachian, who describes the “slow burn” of everyday racism and his efforts to organize Black Appalachian youth to stay in their communities;
  • Cindy Sierra Morales, who arrived from Mexico as a child with her family fleeing gang violence and now works to connect newcomers with access to health care and other resources;
  • and many others.

In an election year when media coverage of immigration and “Trump country” is pervasive and xenophobia is increasing, sharing narratives from those on the ground is particularly vital for complicating one-dimensional portrayals. Listening to stories can help us discern the challenges of resettlement and building community and work toward a world where all can thrive.

Order the book here.

Free Lesson Plans

The Voice of Witness education team created lesson plans available online for educators to download and use these stories in classrooms. The curriculum is rooted in an Ethnic Studies framework that questions dominant narratives and promotes critical thinking around not only the Appalachian region, but migration and displacement in general. The lessons are designed to widen student perspectives around why people stay, why people leave, and the systems that interact with individual choice. They also emphasize the importance of community storytelling as a method of connection, healing, and growth.

Launch Event

We’re co-hosting a launch event with Haymarket on June 20th, World Refugee Day, at 2pm PT / 5pm ET. Join us for a conversation about displacement, resettlement, and belonging in Appalachia. Speakers include project editor Katrina Powell, narrators Babikir and Mekyah, and VOW editorial director Dao X. Tran. Register and invite your friends and colleagues to tune in!

Beginning Again: Stories of Movement and Migration in Appalachia
Reflections on the Project

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, a community-based education, media, and arts organization

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

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

Join Our Newsletter


Next Steps: Sync an Email Add-On

To get the most out of your form, we suggest that you sync this form with an email add-on. To learn more about your email add-on options, visit the following page ( Important: Delete this tip before you publish the form.
Name *(Required)
I want to recieve:(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.