Robert Gipe, the director of the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, was the speaker recently for a meeting of the Harlan County Arts Council where he read passages from his book “Trampoline.”
The book, released in early spring by the Ohio University Press, has been well-received and is being hailed by acclaimed Appalachian authors Gurney Norman and Silas House as a masterful and original work.
The book centers on 15-year-old Dawn Jewell, who lives in eastern Kentucky with her mother and grandmother at the foot of a mountain slated for strip mining. The death of her father has sent her mother on a spiral into addiction, she constantly fights with her brother, and her divorced grandparents are either heroes or troublemakers, depending on which side of the coal war you fall on.
The book by Gipe, who has worked at SKCTC since 1997, uniquely weaves more than 200 comic-book-style illustrations, penned by Gipe, into a coming-of-age story that has received praise for not only its genre-bending blend of prose and artwork, but for authentically capturing the cultural and economic forces facing contemporary Appalachia in the radically authentic voice of its natives.