Although Harold Voyles hasn’t lived in the Bluegrass State for 28 years, he still calls Kentucky home.
He was raised in Lynch, once one of the largest coal mining camps in America, boasting a population of 11,000 after World War II. Today the population is less than 1,000.
Voyles has written a play, Shadow of a Man, which informs the reader about a region in America that is too often stereotyped.
“I want people to know the Appalachian I experienced, where commitment to faith, family and friendship is rock solid,” said Voyles.
During a coal boom in the 70s and 80s, Voyles worked as an underground miner in Harlan and Pike counties, primarily as a roofbolter, one of the most physically demanding and dangerous jobs in the mining industry.
Harold noted that writing about his culture has given him a greater appreciation for the land and the people. And in the play he opens a window to provide a look into one of America’s most colorful, unique, yet misunderstood cultures.
The setting for Shadow of a Man is during the 60s in the fictional mining town of Hoedown, in Harlan County, where widespread mine closings have forced people to flee to places like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and Indianapolis to find work. By some estimates, Appalachia has the largest outmigration from any region in U.S. history.
Despite a brief economic boom, eastern Kentucky, especially Harlan County, has once again been devastated economically by a greatly-reduced demand for coal.
Over the years, many have sought to chronicle Appalachia through documentaries, literature, movies, music and television. Unfortunately, not all have done so with insight, understanding or an appreciation of the culture.
In Shadow of a Man, the author paints a portrait of Appalachia with characters that are complex, diverse and enduring. By doing so, he has added another piece to the literary puzzle that is the real Appalachia.
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