Georgia Green-Stamper returns home in latest collection of essays, 'Small Acreages
BY MOLLY HAINES
Sweet Owen Editor
The great American novelist Willa Cather once said, "Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of 15." Perhaps no one understands this better than renowned author and Owen County native, Georgia Green-
Stamper, whose third book of essays is set for release this spring.
A seventh-generation Kentuckian, Georgia grew up on an Owen County tobacco farm
that has belonged to one member or another of her family for nearly two centuries. Although she now resides in Lexington, her upbringing continues to play a major role in her creative work.
"I never left Owen County, or perhaps more accurately, it never left me," she said. "I carried it with me. My understanding of what it means to be a decent human being, living a functional, productive life in harmony with others and with nature, while remaining true to oneself was formed by the values I absorbed from my family and neighbors in Owen County."
Although writing was her youthful ambition, she did not begin writing seriously until late mid-life, when she says she finally "ran out of excuses not to." She credits her beginning to the encouragement she received from the writing community at Lexington's Carnegie Center for Learning and Literacy. She found additional ongoing support at the Appalachian Writers Workshop at Hindman Settlement School.
In the years since, her work has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies and appears regularly as the back page essay in Kentucky Humanities magazine.
Her first two books, "You Can Go Anywhere From the Crossroads of the World," released in 2008, and "Butter In the Morning," 2012, have been hailed by both literary critics and famous authors.
In his review of "You Can Go Anywhere From the Crossroads of the World," best-selling author and fellow Kentuckian Silas House writes, "Georgia Green-Stamper's essays do that most important thing that only the most accomplished writers are sometimes lucky to do: capture and preserve a place, a time, and its people."
Her upcoming release, "Small Acreages," further cements this preservation with a return to meandering Eagle Creek and its colorful characters, but her voice has both deepened with time and widened to include her journey beyond Owen County's Natlee community. Many of the essays are reflective – or as Georgia phrases it – she hopes "to add a handful of words to the ongoing conversation about what it means to be human."
The essays included in "Small Acreages" were developed over a period of many years, the majority of them new to Georgia's faithful readers. A handful she pulled forward and revised from her first two collections, including an essay expanding on the life of James Herndon, who in 1850, was the second-largest slave owner in Owen County, and found himself entangled in numerous lawsuits near the end of his life in order to free his slaves.
"In that essay, I've expanded greatly on earlier versions and done additional research," Georgia said. "That's a pretty long essay. (Other essays that repeat) is the essay about my father's death because it has proved to be one of the strongest I've written, and it filled in a gap in the narrative. I've pulled forward the piece about Natlee again because it helped explain place in a section of the book."
In her first two collections, Georgia examines the particulars of human experiences and continues to expound on subjects such as grief and young love in “Small Acreages.”
“While the details of our experiences will differ, they really don’t differ that much. Death, death of a beloved family member — the details will differ, of how and when it happened, but the emotions are the same, the emotions are universal.”
"Small Acreages" borrows its title from one of Kentucky's most famous authors and activists, Wendell Berry: ". . . it may be that our marriages, kinships, friendships, neighborhoods, and all our forms and acts of homemaking are the rites by which we solemnize and enact our union with the universe. These are practical, proper, available to everybody, and they can provide for the safekeeping of the small acreages of the universe that have been entrusted to us."
Although Georgia hasn't lived in Owen County since 1967, she continues this practice of safekeeping by introducing the characters of her upbringing to a whole new generation of Kentuckians.
"I've had a sense that my people, my corner of Kentucky and the world, have been ignored in the world of letters, forgotten, or at best, trivialized," she said. "I have felt that the stories of the magnificent lives of the 'extraordinary ordinary' people who populated my young world deserve to be remembered, recognized, and shared with others."
For details on the release of "Small Acreages," visit www.facebook.com/butterinthemorning.