I was recently asked to write an introduction and some questions to accompany my book, Haints, for a local book club. Here’s what I wrote (no spoilers!):
When my family moved to rural southern Appalachia, I was eleven years old. The culture shock was palpable; everything from the language to clothing to the quality of sunlight was different from everything I’d ever known in my early childhood near Tampa, Florida. Feeling like a foreigner in one’s own country leaves a deep impression.
Our farm in Hancock County was geographically near where one of my ancestors, a Civil War veteran, had lived and farmed. But the distance of generations and the tide of time–not to mention the culture, heavily revolving around the Baptist church–made me always a little bit apart from the families who grew up in the area. At the confluence of our beautiful farm, which is recognizable in the Whitts’ land, my curiosity and distant blood connection to those who inherited the sights and sounds of Appalachia, and the foreignness of myself in the deep country, Haints was formed.
There is something else inherent in the magical realism of the story: layers of culture all mixed up. Indigenous culture, Appalachian “hillbilly” culture, and modern life make a stew of superstition and shamanistic connection to the land that seems fantastical but is more accurate than folks “not from around here” might realize.
Book Club Questions:
- In the introduction, I discuss the mixed layers of culture in rural southern Appalachia. Where in the book did mixed cultures stand out for you?
- Haints are a southern American concept in multiple communities. A notable example of this is in South Carolina, where descendants of African slaves—Gulla Geechee people—hold cultural beliefs about the color blue keeping haints away. It’s why many Southern porch roofs are painted “haint blue!” Haints also came with those of European ancestry, and the superstitions about them settled in remote mountain communities. I took creative liberties with the haints in my book. What do the haints, as I wrote them, symbolize for you? Are they literal carnivorous ghosts, or something less obvious?
- Family is integral to this story. Traditions, obligations, superstitions and, of course, love all play their role. Did you relate to one of the Whitts in particular, or perhaps their neighbors? In what way?
- I write and read for the simple pleasure of storytelling. But I do enjoy when I catch on to a well-described scene or striking metaphor. In Haints, did any particular scene or overall concept strike you as a reader?
- The Whitt family members all have a certain “shine.” If you had a shine, what would it be? (Or, what would you like it to be?)
If you’d like me to appear at your book club meeting, reach out! If you’re “not from around here,” I could attend by zoom or some other technological marvel.
Haints by Meghan Palmer is easily found at:
Or on Amazon, ordered through your local bookstore, or in Knoxville shops: Whimsy & A Dream, Ijams gift shop, Tonya Rea’s, and Union Ave Book Store.