“Where ya from? ” is a question Tijah Bumgarner got a lot after she left her home state.
“West Virginia, ” she’d reply, when she was waiting tables in Los Angeles and folks noticed her accent. And she knew the follow-up before it was asked. “They’d joke around like look down to see if I was wearing shoes and of course ask me if I’d marriage my cousin.”
“They’d joke around like look down to see if I was wearing shoes and of course ask me if I’d marriage my cousin.”
After a while, the 20 -year-old started to respond with a prepackaged quip. When asked where she’s from, she’d tell, “West Virginia, but I have all my teeth and I’m wearing shoes, so don’t bother asking about that.”
It was an understandable defense mechanism making fun of herself before anyone else could but looking back, Tijah says she never “recognized what that really entailed or that I was really merely perpetuating this stereotype in a way.”
What are the dominant stories that come out of West Virginia and other parts of central Appalachia these days?
On the one hand, you’ve got plenty of movies and proves about ignorant, backward, and ” other ” mountain people. Like the “Wrong Turn” series of six( yeah, SIX) movies about inbred, cannibalistic hillbillies in West Virginia.
Those types of stories can be traced back to the late 1800 s, when travelling novelists from the North would come to the mountains to write what was essentially fiction about the isolated people there who were oh-so-against advance.
This narrative took the fact that folks were living off the land and twisted it around against them because surely anyone who doesn’t want their land stripped away from them for resource extraction must be against advance, right? Right.
And then, of course, you’ve get news stories heavy with misfortune: chemical spills, poverty, drug use, mine calamities.
“Of course it’s sorrowful. Of course we’re losing a lot. Of course they’re blowing up mountains. But there are other things happening too.”
This summer, Tijah’s working on a new various kinds of tale: one that’s simply about growing up.
Her story is a simple one, a relatable one, and maybe even a cute one, about a 14 -year-old girl growing up in Tijah’s hometown of Meadow Bridge, West Virginia.
. Sure, we may think we’re a little different, but really, we all kind of go across these things. Y’know, we all have a crush, we all have a first kiss. I’m hoping that people can relate to that.”
Tijah knows that there’s no way “Meadow Bridge” could single-handedly reverse all the stereotypes people have about central Appalachia. No one tale could do that.
But she hopes that adding to the discourse may help create something different. “At least, ” she hopes, “it’s a drop in the bucket.”
“Sometimes telling a simple tale is a revolutionary act.”
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