Best Selling Author Barbara Kingsolver to Speak at UVA Wise

Barbara Kingsolver
Photo by Evan Kafka

Barbara Kingsolver, acclaimed author and recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize, will speak at UVA Wise in April.

The Center for Appalachia Studies at UVA Wise is sponsoring the speaking engagement at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17, at the College’s David J. Prior Convocation Center. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required and there will not be a book signing.

Kingsolver won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her book, “Demon Copperhead.” The book is set in nearby Lee County at the onset of the opioid epidemic, and is a modern interpretation of Charles Dickens' “David Copperfield.”

Demon Copperhead masterfully gives voice to those who have been hurt the most by underfunded systems, and the exploitation of Appalachia by the drug companies who targeted the region to market opioids. Once you read Demon's story, you can never again look away,” said Amy D. Clark, UVA Wise professor of communication studies and founding director of the Center for Appalachian Studies and the Appalachian Writing Project.

Brian McKnight, UVA Wise history professor and founding director of the Center for Appalachian Studies, said the book is an important book to read, especially for Appalachians.

“Demon Copperhead” is a story that is relatable to far too many Appalachians.  It chronicles the lost generation that came of age at the turn of the millennium when the economy was humming, the future was bright, and a new, purportedly non-addictive class of opioids would treat chronic pain…cleverly advertised as the fifth vital sign.  Like the real lives of so many in our region, the optimism turned sour with economic problems, wars and widespread opioid addiction.  In the coming decade, Appalachia’s death rate among young people skyrocketed taking with it thousands of that generation and leaving carnage in their wake,” McKnight said. 

Both Clark and McKnight taught "Demon Copperhead” in their classes last fall.

While the book is fictionSouthwest Virginia residents may find several locations and institutions mentioned in the book familiar. Those include Lee High School, the former Powell Valley High School, City of Norton and natural assets and tourist destinations like the Sand Cave in Cumberland Gap National Park and Devil’s Bathtub in Scott County, Clark said. 

Kingsolver is a U.S. contemporary author of fiction, nonfiction, critical commentary, poetry and journalism. Her literary work has received the top prizes in writing including the National Humanities Medal, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government for service in the arts and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the comprehensive body of her literary work. 

She’s also won the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters and the PEN/Faulkner Award among numerous other awards and honors. 

Kingsolver is well-known for her best-selling books including “The Lacuna,” “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” “The Bean Trees” and “The Poisonwood Bible." She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.