Kingsolver’s ‘perfect’ setting: ’40s Asheville

In addition to Mexico, why did you choose Asheville, North Carolina as a main location for this story?

“In the early months as I laid out the plot, I cast around for a setting for the U.S. portion of my story: a medium-sized city within a day’s drive of Washington, whose history I could research thoroughly.  My character would live there throughout the 1940s, so it would be ideal for me to find a city that had preserved a lot of architecture from that era, both public and private.  I would love to find intact neighborhoods, downtown blocks, grand old resorts, preserved WPA road systems and parks, all kinds of places where I could walk around and visualize my setting down to its finest details.  Asheville was perfect, just a couple of hours from where I live.

“Because it’s an old resort town, its history is very well documented in words and pictures.  The city’s unique story became its own contribution to the novel.  I discovered, for example, that in the summer of 1948 Asheville had the worst polio epidemic in the nation, putting the whole town under quarantine.  I learned this during my research and it became a key plot element, creating a perfect, claustrophobic backdrop to the suspenseful narrowing down of choices for my protagonist.  I love this fantastic synergy between discovery and creation, in writing historical fiction.  It feels like magic.”

— From an interview with Barbara Kingsolver about her historical novel “The Lacuna.”

Holiday link dump: Anarchists to preservationists

— The Asheville Citizen-Times offers a nicely done page of local historical photos. A 1943 shot raises the question: Might there also have been a Colored Transportation Co., or was that purpose adequately served by the back of the White Transportation bus?

— Also in the Citizen-Times: lots and lots of coverage of May Day vandalism. And here an anarchist calls for “Solidarity with the accused!”

— Preservationists set their sights on Edenton’s grand but neglected Pembroke Hall, circa 1850.

— Lincoln County Historical Association impatiently  bypasses state historical marker process to honor former Air Force chief of staff.

— Does Penderlea, the Pender County farm community created under the New Deal,  belong on the National Register of Historic Places?

— Archives and History publishes 25th anniversary update of  “Native Carolinians: The Indians of North Carolina.”

— High school teacher researches  “a non-fiction memoir of the 33 mills that were once in Richmond County and the people they affected.”

— The Woolworth’s lunch counter at the National Museum of American History is the setting for a half-hour play, in which an activist of the time briefs potential recruits in nonviolent resistance. (Scroll down.)

Remembering an early ear on civil rights

Death noted: Asheville native Jim Leeson, civil-rights-era journalist, May 3 in Franklin, Tenn. He was 79.

The New York Times obit centers on his historically-invaluable taping of a 1951 radio broadcast describing the scene at a black man’s public execution in Laurel, Miss., but a fuller account of Leeson’s life can be found at A Man in Full: Jim Leeson, 1930-2010.

Hat tip to blogger Tom Wood for verifying his friend’s Buncombe County roots.