By Wendy Welch
Chaos. Frustration. Compassion. Desperation. Hope. These are the five words that author Wendy Welch says best summarize the state of foster care in the coalfields of Appalachia. Her assessment is based on interviews with more than sixty social workers, parents, and children who have gone through “the system.” The riveting stories in Fall or Fly tell what foster care is like, from the inside out.
In depictions of foster care and adoption, stories tend to cluster at the dark or light ends of the spectrum, rather than telling the day-to-day successes and failures of families working to create themselves. Who raises other people’s children? Why? What’s money got to do with it when the love on offer feels so real? And how does the particular setting of Appalachia—itself so frequently oversimplified or stereotyped—influence the way these questions play out?
In Fall or Fly, Welch invites people bound by a code of silence to open up and to share their experiences. Less inspiration than a call to caring awareness, this pioneering work of storytelling journalism explores how love, compassion, money, and fear intermingle in what can only be described as a marketplace for our nation’s greatest asset.
Wendy Welch is a bookseller, ethnographer, and journalist. The author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap and editor of Public Health in Appalachia, she divides her time between writing up observations of Appalachia, and working to make it a more just and verdant place.
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