MFA candidate Morgan Green recently interviewed Mountainview MFA faculty member and New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash, about his newest project: The Open Canon Book Club.
What inspired you to start this project?
On a personal level, I was inspired to start this project from the anecdotal evidence of reading selections that book clubs offer me. I've visited with or spoken with members of so many book clubs, and all of them love reading: it adds joy, solace, and empathy to their lives. But more and more, book clubs I met were telling me about the writers they read, and those writers too often looked like me and hailed from the same region of the country I come from. These book clubs were basically getting the same slice of America every month by similar reading authors.
What was your first book selection and why?
I chose Crystal Wilkinson's The Birds of Opulence for several reasons. First, it's outstanding, and it's an ideal book club selection: an inter-generational saga with strong female characters and intense sense of place. I also appreciate that it is by and about African American women living in Appalachia. Hillbilly Elegy gave most Americans such a skewed image of the region, but Wilkinson's novel reflects Appalachia in a way that is just as valid as the personal experience JD Vance portrayed in his memoir. Hers is just more diverse and lacking in stereotypes of the place and its people. Finally, the novel is absolutely gorgeous. I finished a close reading of it a few mornings ago, and I wept. And I wept again each time I hugged my daughters and my wife.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting the book club?
The fear of taking on a new project. But I decided that I would be reading many of these books anyway, so why not do the things I would normally do - read author interviews and book reviews, pour through photo essays and articles, investigate the authors' lives and the regions they write about - and share it all with readers. Each month I'll host a live chat about the selection. This is something I would love to do about the books I read in my private life, so I'm excited to discuss a book with friends and strangers each month.
What have you learned so far from your experience in creating the club?
That being part of the resistance is often as easy and profound as putting a book in someone's hand.
Is there anything people might not know about the project that you want to share?
I want them to know that I'm not trying to save minority literature or give anyone a chance. Nearly all the authors I've selected are better known writers than I am, and most of them sell more books. They don't need my help. What I am trying to do is get books in front of readers who otherwise may not find them.
What are your opinions on climate fiction and do you think the books in your series could be considered as such?
I don't have a lot of experience with climate fiction. This is a huge gap in my reading I need to investigate.
What other books are on your nightstand right now?
There There by Tommy Orange, Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill, and a bunch of bound manuscripts waiting to be blurbed.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as a writer?
Read more than you write.
Morgan Green is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.