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Book Review: 7 
21st-Jan-2008 04:34 pm
Well, we've tonight and tomorrow and then we're off to the US of A.
Colour me excited. :)

I finished the following in about an hour, it's that riveting to me.

The Thistle and the Brier: Historical Links and Cultural Parallels Between Scotland and Appalachia by Richard Blaustein

I realize that many of you many have never heard of the faff about the connections between Scotland and Appalachia, the so-called 'Celtic Connection'.

Because of this, I'd wanted to read at least one scholarly work on the concept.
Unsurprisingly, academia bears out my earlier premise: no, Americans, regardless of place of birth or upbringing, are not Irish, are not Scottish. However, in many places, and especially Appalachia, the Scots-Irish background is preserved and does inform many aspects of life.

The stereotypical Scot is akin to the stereotypical Appalachian. Both are surrounded with a mythology that is romanticized version of reality.

Did the Highlanders of the 1740s or do those of the 1990s prance around in kilts 24/7 or eat nothing but oatmeal and haggis? No!
Did the Appachians of the 1830s or do those living in this new century wear denim overalls and smoke corn cob pipe constantly? No!

There are some that are solely intrigued and entranced by the mythology of the situation. It isn't just modern Americans that buy into this. Walter Scott led Lowlanders and Englishmen alike in a Pied Piper-esque parade of tartan and adoration of the 'noble savage'.

However, others are truly looking for cultural identity. An understanding of what they are, based on who their ancestors were. (I could trot out the 'don't know history, doomed to repeat it' line, but I'm pretty sure most of you have already gotten there.)

For me, am I Scottish just because I spent 14 years living in Appalachia? Nope. That's ridiculous.
But, what it does mean for me is that I understand exactly what they're on about when I hear two auld granite wifies talking about how someone is a newcomer who's been living here for 43 years.
You could hear people in Boone, NC say near abouts the same thing...and in some cases, using close to the same dialect.

I highly, highly recommend this one.
21st-Jan-2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
I must admit I get a tad annoyed when some US tourist tells me "I'm Skawtch - my great great granddaddy came from Falkirk" and I have been known to reply, "No, you're American, of Scottish ethnic heritage. BTW, Scotch comes in bottles."
21st-Jan-2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
I think knowing a certain-person-who-can-no-doubt-read-this cured me forever of ever calling myself anything but American. Not that Gordon lets me get away with it either. Besides I'm such a mishmash of things heritage-wise it's hard to say I'm anything other SDA as that's the strongest cultural influence I've had. And that's really saying something because I'm the granddaughter of 3 immigrants.

Living with my grandparents taught me about my Brazilian background but I am certainly going to be more comfortable in the UK than I ever would be in Brazil. And I really don't think I'll ever call myself Scottish even if I live the rest of my life there. I find it easiest not to label myself as anything. I just say where I live and call it good.

Bob's dad always said he was Scottish (meaning his family heritage, he would never say he was anything but American). He was from the Virginia bits of the Appalachians. Did the book make any direct connections between the two places or was it all theoretical?
21st-Jan-2008 06:22 pm (UTC)
Interesting-sounding book! I think I'll have to check it out.

The language and culture thing definitely makes sense to me, as one having informed the other. When someone at your wedding ceilidh pointed out that the Scottish country dancing was the granddaddy of square dancing, it clicked for me. And just the other day I made a comment to a friend who was doing an over-exaggerated hills accent about how all he needed to do was change his vowels a little and he'd be dead close to a Scottish accent.

My mother's family mostly lived in Morristown, TN for generations (you know, valley folk). I think my mother will have an interest in this, as well, since her grandfather immigrated from Scotland and the rest of her family only recently thought to leave the valley. :D
21st-Jan-2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
USA! aw! i hope you have a wonderful trip!!! :)

the book sounds very good and interesting. :D
21st-Jan-2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
Safe travels!
22nd-Jan-2008 01:21 am (UTC)
That's interesting, because I noticed when I was at university in London in 1991 that some of my rural Scottish friends pronounced certain words exactly like some of rural Virginia/NC people I'd met at college in Virgina and I wondered what the connection was.
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