Halle Hill sketches the lives of 12 Black Appalachian women in Good Women (Hub City, Sep. 12), her debut story collection, which made our list of the best fiction books of the year. Hill answered our questions by email; her answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How would you say your depiction of the American South aligns with and/or challenges the popular characterization of the region?
Good Women reflects the strength, creativity, and diversity of the South, especially Southern Appalachia. Many people unfortunately mystify, mock, and whitewash Appalachia. I refused to do that in my book. While I push back against the idea of a Black monolith, and I certainly can’t speak for all Black women, I am grateful for the opportunity to share about Black Appalachian women and continue the conversation about the South’s vibrancy and power.
What was the original idea that started you working on the book?
I wrote [the short story] “The Truth About Gators” first, in 2017. Nicki, the main speaker, came through so strongly for me. It was well before I felt confident about being a fiction writer, so I wrote the story in secret. The original idea for the collection was to write fiction about Black Southern women, loosely inspired by oral history from my own matriarchal lineage. “The Truth About Gators” is one of the first pieces I wrote that made me feel like I had some sense of intention as a fiction writer.
Who is the ideal reader for your book?
Good Women centers Black Appalachian women and femmes, so my collection is for them (us) first. After that, my hope is that it’s meaningful for any readers from the regions I write about. I met a young woman in North Carolina who bought copies for her and her 17-year-old daughter, hoping it could spark connection between them before her daughter headed to college. That meant everything to me.
Any memorable highlights from live book events this year?
I’ve been fortunate to do many live events for Good Women this year. Hearing how people connect with the stories is beyond moving. My publisher, Hub City Writers Project, and publicity team, Nectar Literary, worked so hard to get me into incredible places. Memorable highlights include reading at Union Ave Books in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the majority of my elementary school teachers surprised me; participating in the Bookmarks Festival of Books & Authors in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and reading at Letters Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina.
What books published in 2023 were among your favorites?
Some of my favorites this year include Moonrise Over New Jessup, by Jamila Minnicks; Death Valley, by Melissa Broder;The Great American Everything, by Scott Gloden; and The Book of (More) Delights, by Ross Gay.
Katherine King is an editorial intern.