In the summer of 2017, I was one of five Scottish writers chosen by Edinburgh International Book Festival to undertake journeys across the Americas.
I travelled through the United States for three weeks, from north to south, beginning in North Dakota, through Appalachia, and ending in Louisiana. For much of this time I was accompanied by the novelist Jennifer Haigh. I wrote the diary posts below as we travelled.
After leaving Port Royal on Sunday evening, I'd driven south towards Berea, where I stayed with another writer, Silas House (and learned that Kentucky whiskey is much better than I'd previously thought).
Silas is a novelist, and also teaches Appalachian Studies here in Berea. The town's college was founded in the 1860s as a racially-integrated, abolitionist school, just a few years before the civil war began. It remains a liberal institution even today.
This morning, Silas gave me a tour of the town and the surrounding area. He is passionate about this region and its culture, just as he is passionately opposed to the destruction of its environment and communities by mountain-top removal coal mining. In the next couple of days, I will be seeing some of the results of that destruction.