Wiley Cash Conroy Legacy Award Recipient

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the 2020 Conroy Legacy Award Recipient: Wiley Cash

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Wiley Cash / 2020 Conroy Legacy Award

Wiley Cash, the New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home, This Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad, has been selected to receive the 2020 Conroy Legacy Award -- the "lifetime achievement award given by Southern independent booksellers in honor of the example set by the beloved Southern author Pat Conroy. The award recognizes writers "who have achieved a lasting impact on their literary community, demonstrated support for independent bookstores both in their own communities and in general, created written work that focuses significantly on their home place, and supported other writers, especially new and emerging writers."

Readers are, of course, familiar with Cash's well-loved novels set in Western North Carolina and Appalachia, A Land More Kind Than Home, This Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad. Wiley Cash has been a popular speaker at bookstores, libraries and community events throughout his home state, and generous with his time for both readers and writers.

Perhaps less well-known is that Cash is the creator of the Open Canon Book Club, which seeks to introduce readers to "voices and portrayals of the American experience they may not have otherwise encountered" and which is supported by independent bookstores in the South and nationwide. He is also a co-founder of The Land More Kind Appalachian Artists Residency, a week-long residency program for writers, visual artists, musicians, songwriters, and photographers who are either from Appalachia or devoted to creating art representative of the region.

Wiley Cash and Cassandra King Conroy

"Pat [Conroy] was one of those successful writers who was also pushing others ahead of him," said Cash when he was told he would receive the award, "I've heard story after story from writers whose work he shouldered and shared with the world. He did that for me. We all need to do that for the writers who are coming behind us. He didn't pull the ladder up. He reached a hand down."

Of the role the Southern independent bookstore community has played in his career, Cash was emphatic: "It's only because the independent bookstores and booksellers embraced my debut that my books have had the success they've had. Indie bookstores put me on the literary map, and they've kept me there. Independent bookstores are the literary, social, cultural, intellectual, and ethical lifeblood of our communities. We go to indie stores to meet authors, discover books, discuss ideas, find community, exchange new ideas and challenge old ones."

Suzanne Lucey, co-owner of Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC says the regard goes both ways: "We had Wiley to our store and for each book sold he donated a dollar from his own pocket to send to the ACLU. Who does that?"

"He also has asked to do a writing class at our store," she added, "and applauded a Clay County, NC high school teacher for introducing Appalachian writers like Ron Rash and David Joy. He really is trying from the bottom up to make our state and country better."

Wiley Cash UNC Asheville FoundationIn recognition of his commitment to the Southern literary community and the standard that Pat Conroy has set for all its members, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance will make a donation to the Pat Conroy Literary Center and to the UNC Asheville Foundation in the name of Wiley Cash.

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Wiley Cash titles

A reading list of Wiley Cash's finest, ready to share: Shareable link to this page


A Land More Kind Than Home

A Land More Kind Than Home

In his phenomenal debut novel—a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town—author Wiley Cash displays a remarkable talent for lyrical, powerfully emotional storytelling.

A Land More Kind than Home is a modern masterwork of Southern fiction, reminiscent of the writings of John Hart (Down River), Tom Franklin (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter), Ron Rash (Serena), and Pete Dexter (Paris Trout)—one that is likely to be held in the same enduring esteem as such American classics as To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and A Separate Peace.

A brilliant evocation of a place, a heart-rending family story, a gripping and suspenseful mystery—with A Land More Kind than Home, a major American novelist enthusiastically announces his arrival.

William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062088239, 368pp.

This Dark Road to Mercy

This Dark Road to Mercy

The critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home—hailed as "a powerfully moving debut that reads as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird" (Richmond Times Dispatch)—returns with a resonant novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, set in western North Carolina, involving two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins.

After their mother's unexpected death, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are adjusting to life in foster care when their errant father, Wade, suddenly appears. Since Wade signed away his legal rights, the only way he can get his daughters back is to steal them away in the night.

Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn't the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.

Narrated by a trio of alternating voices, This Dark Road to Mercy is a story about the indelible power of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062088260, 256pp.

The Last Ballad

The Last Ballad

The New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy returns with this eagerly awaited new novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. The chronicle of an ordinary woman's struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice, with the emotional power of Ron Rash's Serena, Dennis Lehane's The Given Day, and the unforgettable films Norma Rae and Silkwood.

Twelve times a week, twenty-eight-year-old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill's owners—the newly arrived Goldberg brothers—white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and other workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May's best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it's the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband, John, has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever work she can find.

When the union leaflets begin circulating, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county's biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement—a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town—indeed all that she loves.

Seventy-five years later, Ella May's daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the tragedy that befell Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929.

Intertwining myriad voices, Wiley Cash brings to life the heartbreak and bravery of the now forgotten struggle of the labor movement in early twentieth-century America—and pays tribute to the thousands of heroic women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent novel confirms Wiley Cash's place among our nation's finest writers.

William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062313126, 416pp.