So Much to Be Angry About
Appalachian Movement Press and Radical DIY Publishing, 1969–1979
by Shaun Slifer
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Pub Date 31 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 15 May 2021
In a remarkable act of recovery, So Much to Be Angry About conjures an influential but largely obscured strand in the nation’s radical tradition—the “movement” printing presses and publishers of the late 1960s and 1970s, and specifically Appalachian Movement Press in Huntington, West Virginia, the only movement press in Appalachia. More than a history, this craft- and activist-centered book positions the frontline politics of the Appalachian Left within larger movements in the 1970s. As Appalachian Movement Press founder Tom Woodruff wrote: “Appalachians weren’t sitting in the back row during this struggle, they were driving the bus.”
Emerging from the Students for a Democratic Society chapter at Marshall University, and working closely with organizer and poet Don West, Appalachian Movement Press made available an eclectic range of printed material, from books and pamphlets to children’s literature and calendars. Many of its publications promoted the Appalachian identity movement and “internal colony” theory, both of which were cornerstones of the nascent discipline of Appalachian studies. One of its many influential publications was MAW, the first feminist magazine written by and for Appalachian women.
So Much to Be Angry About combines complete reproductions of five of Appalachian Movement Press’s most engaging publications, an essay by Shaun Slifer about his detective work resurrecting the press’s history, and a contextual introduction to New Left movement publishing by Josh MacPhee. Amply illustrated in a richly produced package, the volume pays homage to the graphic sensibility of the region’s 1970s social movements, while also celebrating the current renaissance of Appalachia’s DIY culture—in many respects a legacy, Slifer suggests, of the movement publishing documented in his book.
“So Much to Be Angry About is an example of the best impulses of people’s history, careful and caring in its attention to people and places, disposing of nothing, casting a loving and critical eye and turning over stones, not just of movement history and its ideas, but also of the labor of the craftspeople, artists, and makers whose work spurs us on but sometimes goes without examination. I love how this book traces generational knowledge, complete with lessons, pitfalls, dynamism, and complication for those of us currently making and joining community, art, and resistance in Appalachia.”
—Madeline ffitch, author of Stay and Fight
“The Appalachian Movement Press has been an inspiration for almost everything we do. An activist press focused on labor and art, and it was based in West Virginia? That’s something we all need to hear about! Especially anyone unpacking the region’s deep history of exploitation.”
—Dwight and Liz Pavlovic, founders, Crash Symbols
“This is a history of Appalachian Movement Press and also a fascinating look into Appalachian history, regional radical politics, and print history. The fire of creation can be passed down through books like So Much to Be Angry About, and maybe this retelling of AMP’s story could spark something else like it down the line.”
—Lucas Church, University of North Carolina Press
“Back before activists used viral memes to reach the masses, the rebels at Appalachian Movement Press used any means necessary to keep their presses running and get information into the hands of all people. I was captivated by the untold story of these scrappy Appalachians who were determined to spread regional pride and history, and who were also completely uninterested in money or fame.”
—Betsy Sokolosky, owner, Base Camp Printing Co.
- Charismatic and well-connected author with enthusiastic social media following, poised to leverage title's availability on NetGalley for influencer campaign
- Author's involvement with Justseeds Artists' Cooperative means support / events in Pittsburgh (where he's based), Portland, and Brooklyn, as well as Appalachian hotspots like Asheville, Knoxville, Lexington, etc.
- Attractive package with color throughout for craft / artisan market
- Personal story of author's detective work makes for accessible presentation
- Radical Appalachian politics in the vein of our successful Appalachian Reckoning (over 10K sold)
- Pittsburgh author allows us to take advantage of our media / bookseller network in that city (cf, Philyaw)
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
Really enjoyed this piece of DIY publishing history previously unknown to me! Warning: this book will rile you up to start your own radical publishing distro and the next thing you know you will be trying to figure out how to fit an offset printing operation into your tiny apartment.
I received an electronic ARC of this book via NetGalley for honest review.
This is a well-written and interesting account of the history of Appalachian Movement Press, which operated in West Virginia during the years stated in the title. The book introduces the general history of movement presses in the United States, but really is focused specifically on this one example--enough overall information to let even a rather uninformed reader (I was almost entirely unfamiliar with movement presses) understand the context, while still having a clear focus on the particular press in question.
Part biography of the variety of people involved with Appalachian Movement Press, part loose overview of the various veins of political and philosophical thought in Appalachia that gave birth to the press, it's both enjoyable and informative. The endnotes are extensive, and Slifer's use of a variety of both printed and oral sources makes for a compelling read.
The latter portion of the book presents some of the publications printed by Appalachian Movement Press, in the form of images of the pages. This made this portion a little harder to read on my e-reader, but I'm sure would be less of a problem in print. The selections are interesting, and the introduction provided for each provides valuable context.