Award-winning author and poet Ron Rash is coming down to the valley next week on Thursday to pay a visit to the Elkin Public Library for a day of reading and book signing. The reading will start at 7 p.m. and is free to the public.
“We’re very excited to have him visiting our library,” said Branch Librarian Martha Smith. “We wanted to get him to visit our library because he has a fairly big name among southern literature.”
Rash was born on Sept. 25, 1953, in Chester, South Carolina, and grew up in Boiling Springs. He graduated from Gardner-Webb University and Clemson University with B.A. and M.A. in English, respectively. Rash is most known for his short stories, but he also has written several novels and poetry.
Rash published his first book in 1994, a collection of short stories titled “The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth.” He has also won several awards for his work, including the 2010 Frank O’ Connor International Short Story Award for his collection Burning Bright. He has written four prizewinning novels “The Cove,” “One Foot in Eden,” “Saints at the River” and “The World Made Straight.” He is also a two-time recipient of the O. Henry Prize. In 2003, Rash became a professor of Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina, returning to his family’s homeland in the mountains.
“We appreciate him being willing to take his time to come to a smaller town and audience,” said Smith. “We’re very close to where he set many of his stories in Western North Carolina. People who live here can actually feel the novels more accurately than people who live farther away from North Carolina and the mountains. They can identify with the character, the situations, and the setting very rapidly when they’re reading his work.”
Rash’s work focuses on dark, Appalachian themes, centered around people living in the Southern Appalachian area. He has written a wide of different genres. Many of his stories have a darker edge to them.
“We have a friend, Barbara Smith, who is an actress who performed one of Ron Rash’s stories at the high school,” said Ann Gulley of the library’s Board of Trustees. “The high school students made no noise at all during the performance. It was a very unusual thing. To use the cliché, you could hear a pin drop in that auditorium. There’s a bit of reality of the worlds and people he represents. He does have a reputation for being dark but several of his stories also have a tender, light touch.”
The event was made possible by members of the Library Board of Trustees who invited Rash to the library. The event is being funded by the Elkin Public Library Endowment. Many members of the Board of Trustees and the Elkin Library are excited for Rash’s visit next week.
“We have had a tradition at the library of bringing in Carolina writers like Lee Smith, Allan Gurganus and Dori Sanders,” said Gulley. “I think bringing in writers that have national reputation, whose names appear in The New York Times book reviews, is a really beneficial thing for the community because you don’t get that experience often in a small town. The other thing we’ve done is try to include high school students in these programs. You never know what the benefit will be, but I can’t help but think this will be something that will resonate at some point later in their lives.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.