2017 Mountain Heritage Literary Festival Appalachian Book of the Year, nonfiction
One day, Jesse Donaldson wakes up in Portland, Oregon, and asks his wife to uproot their life together and move to his native Kentucky. As he searches for the reason behind this sudden urge, Donaldson examines both the place where he was born and the life he’s building.
The result is a hybrid—part memoir, part meditation on nostalgia, part catalog of Kentucky history and myth. Organized according to Kentucky geography, with one passage for each of the commonwealth’s 120 counties, On Homesickness examines whether we can ever return to the places we’ve called home.
Jesse Donaldson was born in Kentucky, educated in Texas, and now lives in Oregon. He is the author of the novel The More They Disappear.
“A wonderful prose poem, a beautiful meditation on homesickness and connection to place, and a celebration of Kentucky and that strange and undeniable connection that Kentuckians have to the state.”
Silas House, author of Clay’s Quilt, The Coal Tattoo, and Eli the Good
"On Homesickness is a masterful meditation on nostalgia, founded in the tender device of riffs on the 120 counties of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. For this Kentucky native the device is so obvious that it borders on genius, because what is genius but incarnating in art the beauty in the details everyone else has taken for granted? My first thought on opening it was: Why didn’t I think of that?—a sure sign the author is onto something sweet. The riffs are lyrical, poignant, evocative—they call to mind Vladimir Nabokov, our high priest of nostalgia. Everyone who has left home, any home, anywhere, will want to read these, for a sobering assessment of why you left—along with all those who remained, for an equally rich assessment of the price of staying put."
Fenton Johnson, author of The Man Who Loved Birds
"In his ambitious and elegant long essay, Jesse Wilcox Donaldson, modern day voyager, passionately wrestles with the question of home: where is home, how is a home imagined, why do we leave, and how might we (do we want to?) return. Donaldson sets out to root himself far from his origins, and finds himself beckoned back, in surprising and unsettling ways. At turns strict and indulgent, bold and resigned, he fearlessly questions the conventional terms of nostalgia, and finds it to be both a constructed fantasy, and as sharply real as Kentucky bluegrass. Certainties emerge from such rigorous internal voyaging: love roots us in. Children root us in. Places in our past will hold out their hands in temptation and reproach, in friendship and with patience while we find our way back—if we’re lucky enough to hail from land that loves us, and that kindled our deepest longings."
Lia Purpura, author of Rough Likeness
"Donaldson’s text is a celebration of everything Kentucky. It lifts up the stories of those who settled and shaped it as an American state; it records the marks made by those who lived in and formed it before it was taken over. Jesse James is a persistent personality in the text; Donaldson drinks to him in spirit, saluting and mimicking his untamed nature. Daniel Boone and Wendell Berry are among the other Kentuckians who factor in—pointedly, with their wives, who either reluctantly or willingly made new homes there with their men."
"On Homesickness is both an advertisement for Donaldson’s abilities as a writer and the lyric essay as a form. The short, dense bursts of intricate writing in On Homesickness make for a collection of impressions, of short stories about Daniel Boone and the fauna of Kentucky, with the overarching narrative of Donaldson’s growing love for his family threaded throughout."
Praise for The More They Disappear
“Donaldson is a soulful writer.”
The New York Times
“Forget genre labels. This is a stunning novel, period.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Delivers everything a reader could want.”
Philipp Meyer, author of The Son
Kentucky native to read in all 120 counties during book tour
To mark the publication of On Homesickness, Jesse Donaldson, author of The More They Disappear and native of Lexington, will read passages from his new book in all 120 counties in Kentucky.
In On Homesickness—a book organized according to Kentucky geography, with one passage for each of the commonwealth’s 120 counties—Jesse Donaldson wonders if we can ever return to the places we’ve called home. One day he wakes up in Portland, Oregon, and asks his wife to uproot their life together and move to his native Kentucky. As he searches for the reason behind this sudden urge, Donaldson examines both the place where he was born and the life he’s building.
His 120-county tour will begin on Sunday, October 22 in Powell County atop Natural Bridge and will continue through November 17, where he’ll read at the Kentucky Book Fair. During his tour, he’ll stop at bookstores including Brier Books, Roebling Books, Carmichael’s, Karen’s Book Barn, Poor Richard’s, The Cat’s Tale, Coffee Tree Books, Books-A-Million, and Barnes and Noble.
He’ll also read at libraries, book clubs, coffee shops, historical sites, and road stops along the way, including the original KFC, an abandoned movie theater, a house party, a haunted bar, Fort Knox, cemeteries, distilleries, caves, mountaintops, ferries, log cabins, and more.
View the 120-county tour schedule.
Download the press release.
To arrange publicity with Jesse Donaldson, including interviews, ride-alongs, or coverage of specific events, contact Abby Freeland, sales and marketing director at West Virginia University Press, 304 916-7730, firstname.lastname@example.org.