A review of

The Logan Topographies

by Alena Hairston

Central question: What can a hometown tell us about our country?
Format: 80 pp., paperback; Size: 7"x7"; Price: $13.95; Publisher: Persea Press; Editor: Gabriel Fried; Print run: 2,000; Book design: Lytton Smith; Cover design: Dinah Fried; Awards for collection: 2006 Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize; Alena Hairston’s pseudonym as a performer: elen gebreab; Total population, city of Logan in 2000 census: 1,630; Total population, Logan county in 2000: 37,710; Famous feud in neighboring Mingo County: Hatfields and McCoys; Representative line: “The devil at a table. What is seen is not territory. Is home”

One reality of the United States is that in many regions the appellation Bottom identifies an historically African American community. Across the generations this term has had political and psychological, as well as geographic, significance; African Americans, historically segregated to the low end of social and economic opportunity, have lived in the “Bottom.” In titling the last section of The Logan Topographies “The Bottom,” Alena Hairston crystallizes the fecund interconnections of history, genealogy, geography, subsistence, and worldview that define the community of Logan, West Virginia. These interconnections outstrip any one community and move across several generations, making Logan, in this work, a refreshingly full version of the American working-class town.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Milton Welch

Milton Welch teaches at North Carolina State and regularly contributes to the Believer. His hometown is Newport News, Virginia.

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