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Reclaiming an American Tradition

List Price: $16.95

August 6, 2019 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 224 pages | ISBN 9781640092464
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“Resist we must, resist we will—and as this volume powerfully reminds us, in so doing we are acting on the deepest American instincts.” —Bill McKibben, author of Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance

Across cities, towns, and campuses, Americans are grappling with overwhelming challenges and the daily fallout from the most authoritarian White House policies in recent memory.

In an inspiring narrative history, Jeff Biggers reframes today’s battles as a continuum of a vibrant American tradition. Resistance is a chronicle of the courageous resistance movements that have insured the benchmarks of our democracy—movements that served on the front lines of the American Revolution, the defense of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the defeat of fascism during World War II, and landmark civil rights and environmental protection achievements.

Legendary historian Studs Terkel praised Biggers’s The United States of Appalachia as a “how-to book” in the tradition of the American Revolution. With Resistance, Biggers opens a new window into American history and its meaning today. In a recovery of unsung heroes, including Revolutionary forefather Thomas Paine, Resistance is a provocative reconsideration of the American Revolution, bringing alive early Native American, African American, and immigrant struggles, women’s rights, and environmental justice movements. With lucidity, meticulousness, and wit, Biggers unfolds one of our country’s best-kept secrets: in dealing with the most challenging issues of every generation, resistance to duplicitous civil authority has defined our quintessential American story.

JEFF BIGGERS is an award-winning historian, journalist, and playwright. He is the author of several books, including The United States of AppalachiaState Out of the Union, and Reckoning at Eagle Creek, winner of the Delta Prize for Literature and David Brower Award for environmental reporting. His last book, The Trials of a Scold, was long-listed for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. He is the founder of the Climate Narrative Project, an arts and advocacy initiative for schools and communities.


Praise for Resistance

“Journalist Jeff Biggers’s handy reader . . . An intellectually honest and valuable read.” —The Progressive

“In divisive times, things can seem quite hopeless, but in Resistance, Biggers proves in compelling prose that, if anything, history does repeat itself—not only in its hardships and misfortunes, but its times of human connection, understanding and positive change.” —Asheville Citizen-Times

“Biggers offers much to reflect upon as he traces the path of resistance movements through time. Many of the stops along the way will give pause to all but the most fervent of believers in American virtue . . . He reveals the dynamic, complicated nature of our shared history and the people and movements that have overcome—or still struggle against—injustice and prejudice in America.” —The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA)

“[Jeff Biggers’s] latest book may be his best yet . . . With fresh insights from the American Revolution to Standing Rock, Biggers argues that resistance is a quintessential American tradition and the most patriotic act we can undertake to sustain democracy.” —Blue Ridge Outdoors

“[Biggers] provides a wealth of historical detail in this celebration of past American resistance and call for continued dissent.” —Booklist

“A widely ranging history of intellectual and moral resistance within American politics . . . The author writes clearly and with a firm grasp of historical comparison, intimately focused on compelling figures.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well-informed and often witty . . . Biggers succeeds in showing how the long tradition of resistance movements continues today.” —Publishers Weekly

“Resist we must, resist we will—and as this volume powerfully reminds us, in so doing we are acting on the deepest American instincts.” —Bill McKibben, author of Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance

“Reading this book, I saw history vanquish amnesia, David slay Goliath, and tenacity take down tyrants. I saw a long, unbroken chain of resistance extending back through centuries. I saw the world saved over and over. I saw heroes and declared them my ancestors. I heard stories to inspire bold action. I found traditions I want to pass on.” —Sandra Steingraber, activist and author of Living Downstream and Raising Elijah 

“These times are tumultuous and divisive. But Jeff Biggers, a gifted writer who approaches history as expansively as Zinn and as passionately as Galeano, finds resistance everywhere. He shows us how freedom movements—led by people of color, women, and commoners, from revolutionary-era rebels to today’s loud majority—have pulled American democracy away from tyranny and toward humanity time and again. These powerful, urgent essays remind us that everywhere there is resistance there is hope.” —Jeff Chang, author of We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation

“Reading this book, I saw history vanquish amnesia, David slay Goliath, and tenacity take down tyrants. I saw a long, unbroken chain of resistance extending back through centuries. I saw the world saved over and over. I saw heroes and declared them my ancestors. I heard stories to inspire bold action. I found traditions I want to pass on.” —Sandra Steingraber, activist and author of Living Downstream and Raising Elijah

“With compelling and engaging prose, Jeff Biggers lays out the case for Resistance in the age of Trump. Using Common Sense, Thomas Paine’s incendiary call to overthrow the British, as the thread that binds his narrative, Biggers interweaves stories from before the American Revolution to the present to offer the reader a view of history not found in most high school textbooks. From the armed resistance of the Powhatan in 1622 to the protests of the Water Protectors against the Dakota Access Pipeline; from the speeches and essays of Maria Stewart, ‘the first Black feminist-abolitionist in America,’ to the words of Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza, he entreats us to remember that the constitution of our country is founded on the premise of ‘We the People.’ There are so many lessons to learn from Resistance: Reclaiming an American Tradition. Our turbulent times, Biggers shows us, have eerie and chilling parallels to the birth pangs of our nation and to the continuing struggles of ‘We the People’ to define and claim our voices. At this moment in history, when even the act of listening to the news can cause despair, Biggers gives us hope. In response to our darkness, he reaffirms the light that resistance offers. He shows us that the free expression of Resistance, whether with the pen, our marching feet, the taking of a knee before a football game, the words to a song—to name a few—remains a cornerstone of what it means to be American.” —Naomi Benaron, author of the Bellwether Prize–winning Running the Rift

Praise for The United States of Appalachia

“A masterpiece of popular history . . . revelations abound.” —Citizens-Times (North Carolina)

“A rich narrative . . . a respectful ode.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Biggers’ book educates us as to just how biased and ignorant we really are about this region and its rich legacy of cultural, political, and intellectual pioneers . . . full of historical insights.” —San Antonio Express-News

“Jeff Biggers’s inspiring book should be a bestseller immediately. It is a ‘how-to’ book—how to assert your fundamental rights and how to speak out in the manner of the American Revolution footsloggers, whose descendants they are. Read it and your faltering hopes will rise.” —Studs Terkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Good War

“Jeff Biggers opens a new window on the complex history of the region called Appalachia. He takes a hard but affectionate look at both the myths and the facts, and what he finds is by turns sobering and thrilling. Drawing on the contradictions, layers, and range of what is known as mountain culture, he shows that nothing is quite what it seems, and that to understand American history it is essential to know Appalachian history. Biggers tells his story with verve and vivid detail, a story that will at once provoke and inspire.” —Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek and Brave Enemies

Praise for Trials of a Scold

“The astonishing life story of the pioneering muckraker Anne Royall . . . A lively and witty chronicler, Biggers covers Royall’s trial as well as her upbringing in the woods of Appalachia; her marriage to a wealthy landowner and Revolutionary war veteran (they openly lived together before their nuptials); her growth as a writer; and her reinvention as a publisher after her conviction when, at age 62, she launched her own newspaper in Washington, D.C., assisted by orphans—a venture that lasted over two decades. Captivating and thoroughly researched, this work also delves into why Royall was forgotten, noting that “her place in history has not been crafted by her own prolific pen, but by the largely scolding interpretation of others.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A contemporary of Alexander Hamilton, Anne Royall deserves her own musical. Short of that we have Jeff Biggers’ wonderful exploration of what made her the most despised woman of her time, originator of the term “redneck” and an exemplary journalist who had to fight off charges that she was a “common scold” and an evil person. We forget that in her time that was actually an actionable charge and that she could have been sent to prison for speaking the truth and addressing the misbehavior and outrages of the powerful men of her age. That she managed to write with a wicked sense of humor made her all the more dangerous—as well as a role model for those of us living in the age of Trump. Jeff Biggers is a wonderful writer and almost as brave as his role model—the incomparable Anne Royall.” —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller

“Major environmentalist and activist Jeff Biggers turns to 18th century America to bring us a surprising story from the mountains of western Virginia―the most interesting woman that I, for one, had never heard of, despite my own Appalachian heritage. A true pioneer in every way, the muckraking and myth-making journalist, travel writer, and social critic Anne Royall was called both ‘heroine’ and ‘common scold’ in her time; her story holds reverberations and implications for us today.” ―Lee Smith, author of Dimestore: A Writer’s Life

“Anne Royall is a marvelous subject, a bold eighteenth-century woman writer with a stinging wit and a contrarian approach. Challenging, intrepid, and unconventional, she played an important part in American cultural history.” ―Roxana Robinson, author of Georgia O’Keefe: A Life

Trials of a Scold is a fascinating account of a woman who defied nineteenth-century societal constraints to attain national prominence and power as a muckraking journalist. But there is much more to her life and to her story, and in Jeff Biggers’ capable hands she is fully realized. Trials of a Scold does what only the best biographies do: blend meticulous research into a narrative that reads like a novel.” —Ron Rash, author of Serena and Above the Waterfall

“God bless the intemperate muckraker! God bless the courageous truth teller who speaks for the the poor, the abused, and exploited rather than currying favor with the rich, the powerful and self-righteous! God bless the pointed wit of their sharpened tongues! How hard it is to be the often shot messenger! They save us from our habitual cruelty, denial and hypocrisy. Anne Royall was once such and suffered greatly for her passion for justice. Jeff Biggers should be honored for telling her tale and reminding us in this age of the corporate press what a truly free press can be when practiced by a person like Anne.” —Robert Shetterly, artist, Americans Who Tell the Truth

Praise for State Out of the Union:

“Biggers’ investigative research and boots-on-the ground journalism—not to mention his thorough knowledge of Arizona’s tri-cultural heritage of American Indian, Hispanic American and European American history—provide readers with an in-depth understanding of the state’s controversial past and present . . . His historical and political conclusions are the most damning ever published about Arizona’s short history as a state.” —Iowa City Press Citizen

“Biggers, raised in Tucson, has been a lifelong student of Arizona’s history and a keen observer of contemporary Arizona politics. With State Out of the Union he argues that his state has come to be run by right-wing extremists with secessionist delusions, racist hate-mongering policies and a reckless disregard for truth.” —San Antonio Express News

“As the country struggles to deal with immigration, civil rights and what it means to be an American, State Out of the Union serves as a guide to the cultural showdown that now seems inevitable.” —El Paso Times

“The title of Jeff Biggers’ sweeping chronicle of Arizona, State Out of the Union, fittingly evokes Lincoln’s ominous words at the outset of the Civil War . . . Biggers’ lesson for his readers is that throughout its century of turmoil, Arizona’s cycles of conflict move in a progressive trajectory. While many political movements have put down roots in the state, the paths their struggles collectively blaze for the country ultimately point toward emancipation.” —Progressive Magazine

“Biggers’ book, like his others, reveals an important segment of Americana that will open your eyes about a cultural issue that has long haunted us and that politicians have used as a divisive political tool to entrench Americans in a web of lies . . . For Jeff Biggers what the immigration policy of this country should be is as clear as unpolluted, smog-free air, and crystal clean, unchemicalized water. Biggers, an author, journalist, storyteller and playwright is not typical, however. His knowledge and writings about vital trending issues (look for his work in the Huffington Post, and Washington Post to name a few) run far and wide. He is a discerning advocate. He has followed and joined the immigration movement in Arizona before and after the fashioning of SB1070. According to Dr. Rudy Acuna, founding chair of the Chicano/a studies department at CSUN, Biggers is one of the few journalists who have been with the movement since the beginning.” —Technorati

“Perhaps no issue captures better what it means to be American than the contentious legislative debate around who can become American. Certainly, that question will be a major part of the November election, and into the fray comes an examination of the controversial policies and practices in Arizona.” —Publishers Weekly

“The author is masterful at showing how the past is prologue . . . A timely book, especially with immigration policy playing a major role in the upcoming presidential campaign.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Compelling reading during a national election season and beyond.” —Library Journal

“As a matter of cultural and historical record, State Out of the Union leaves readers with much to consider.” —Shelf Awareness

“Jeff Biggers has the unblinking gaze of the honed journalist, a novelist’s sense of image and story, and a prophet’s cache of outrage. He stands in my very short list of American literary heroes. With his new book, Biggers shows us he can write anything–and do it well. His aim is true.” —Luis Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway and The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Praise for Reckoning at Eagle Creek 

“A tour de force.” —Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

“Biggers offers much that’s new, especially concerning events in the coalfields of southern Illinois, where his grandfather worked in the pits, where strip mining began, where Mother Jones organized workers, and where some of our nation’s fiercest labor battles were fought.” —Scott Russell Sanders, Orion Magazine

“Biggers is a cultural historian and it is the social strip-mining that angers him most. But seldom have the environmental and social landscapes been so well described in a single essay.” —New Scientist

“Biggers, with his coal country background and authentic folk-hero style, joins a literary movement as well as a political one — the field of creative nonfiction. Like Robert Morgan in his biography “Boone,” he packs the panorama and lays claim to being transformational as well as authoritative.” —Citizen Times (North Carolina)

“A history that any student of coal’s legacy should know.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“If you take away anything from the work of playwright, journalist, historian and activist Jeff Biggers, it should be this: there’s no such thing as clean coal.” —Louisville LEO Weekly

“A lot of history is presented here in a personal style by a cultural historian with a keen eye. A valuable read for followers of environmental history.” —Library Journal

“An enriching history . . . An important look at the staggering human and environmental costs of mining.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Part historical narrative, part family memoir, part pastoral paean, and part jeremiad against the abuse of the land and of the men who gave and continue to give their lives to (and often for) the mines, [Reckoning at Eagle Creek] puts a human face on the industry that supplies nearly half of America’s energy . . . it offers a rare historical perspective on the vital yet little considered industry, along with a devastating critique of the myth of ‘clean coal.'” —Publishers Weekly

“This is a world-shaking, belief-rattling, immensely important book. If you’re an American, it is almost a patriotic duty to read it.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

“As this fine book makes clear, coal has always and ever been a curse, poisoning everything and everyone it touches—right up to the climate on which we depend for our daily bread. What a story!” —Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“Nobody writes about Appalachia like Jeff Biggers. His voice is a swirl of history and memory, of fact and analysis, of hillbilly wisdom and journalistic outrage. Reckoning at Eagle Creek is bigger and brawnier than a memoir or cultural chronicle—it’s a passionate howl from the dark heart of American coal country.” —Jeff Goodell, author of Big Coal

“Jeff Biggers exposes the truth about coal in America—how the myth of ‘clean coal’ destroys even family histories. But Biggers is a long-time warrior in another fight—to stabilize climate and preserve a good life for young people. Let us hope his message about dirty coal is read far and wide.” —James Hansen, NASA Goddard Center, author of Storms of My Grandchildren

Praise for In The Sierra Madre

” . . . Numerous unforgettable characters, and situations that only a traveler of this ilk could manage. Biggers is the quintessential observer, with the eye and voice of a poet.” —San Antonio Express

“A compassionate and engaging view not just of the Raramuri, but how they and their canyon home have been perceived, portrayed and affected by outsiders.” —Arizona Republic/Gannett News Service

“An astonishing sojourn.” —Booklist

“Once every generation a book comes along that captures the stunning terrain and hidden life of Mexico’s remote western Sierra Madre. In the Sierra Madre is that book for this generation. Jeff Biggers has seen the strange and remarkable that the rest of us can only imagine.” 
—Tom Miller, author of The Panama Hat Trail and On the Border

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