Locavore Barbara Kingsolver
She’s the 74th Most Dangerous Person in America—
and she’s speaking at UK’s Memorial Hall!
It turns out you can go home again. Sort of. Author/Activist/Kentucky native Barbara Kingsolver managed it when she and her family left the Southwest and moved to Appalachian Virginia, chronicling their Year of Living Locally in her enlightened, considered, and provocative new work of narrative nonfiction, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (with contributions from daughter Camille, and husband Steven L. Hopp).
This is no fainthearted sissy “year in provence,” THIS is a year in the life of the “seventy fourth most dangerous person in America.” (A book that identified the “100 most dangerous people in America” was released during the family’s first summer in Virginia, identifying Kingsolver, at Number 74, as one of those “cultural elites who down their snobby noses at ‘ordinary’
In reality, she’s a smart, highly-educated woman who doesn’t take any crap (she may be willing to wade through more manure than your average successful 50-something author, but she won’t try to feed you any).
In a section on cheese, she exposes the highly regulated dairy industry and theoretical governmental “concern” for our consumer safety when she suggests none-too-subtly, “it’s easy to see how impossibly strict milk rules might gratify industry lobbyists, by eliminating competition from family producers.” (HB 298 and SB184 stalled in the Kentucky General Assembly. Kentucky’s own Community Farm Alliance has a great deal to say about the dairy lobby. You can email them at email@example.com, and you
can visit www.kyrealmilk.com.)
For a supposed “cultural elitist,” Kingsolver has proven herself to be surprisingly unafraid to get her hands dirty— and even, on occasion—bloody, on the farm, while simultaneously raising two daughters who are already thoughtful, productive members of their communities.
(Lily launches an eco-friendly egg-biz in the book; daughter Camille participated fully in the family adventure before heading off to Duke—and contributes essays to the book.)
Camille writes, “my make-it-yourself upbringing drummed into me the ethic of working for the things I want. I’ve been involved in growing and cooking the food that feeds me since I was a little kid, and it has definitely given me a certain confidence about relying on myself. Just as meals don’t materialize in the grocery store, I realize a new car and a good education won’t just spring into my life on their own, but hopefully I will get there. If everything my heart desired was handed to me on a plate, I’d probably just want something else.”
Kingsolver observes of parenting, “We’re hoping our kids will remember us somewhere other than in the driver’s seat of the car,” and it’s clear from Camille’s essays that they do.
In addition to being a successful mother (by just about any standard) and widely-lauded author (awarded the National Humanities
Medal in 2000), Kingsolver’s a feminist who recognizes both the art and privilege of time spent in the kitchen. She measures convenience differently than the average consumer, and tallies its costs with a scientist’s
precision for detail.
She writes, “when my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they “My ‘Kentucky NCAA Champions’ shirt was by now so bloodstained, you would think I had worn it to a North Carolina game.”
—Barbara Kingsolver, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
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Previewing Coming to Ground, Kentucky Farm documentary Ace April 2012