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Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective Presents “Brothers Like These,” Apr. 19

BOONE, N.C. – The Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective will present “Brothers Like These,” a staged reading of writing by veterans of the Vietnam War, on April 19 at Appalachian State University.

The presentation, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Room 420 (Parkway Ballroom) of the Plemmons Student Union on the university campus. A reception will follow.

“Brothers Like These” consists of stories and poems that have been collected in a book of the same name; essentially, the book is the script for the reading on April 19. “Brothers” the book (St. Andrews University Press) will go on sale for the first time on April 19, both in Appalachian’s University Bookstore and during the reception following the reading.

Vietnam combat veterans worked on the project in Classroom B, which is in the basement of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, gathering there to write every Wednesday for nearly two years beginning in 2014. The sessions were directed by Joseph Bathanti, a professor of creative writing in Appalachian’s Department of English, and Dr. Bruce Kelly, a primary care physician at the VA.

“Those sessions yielded extraordinary writing. Though ‘Brothers Like These,’ the staged reading as well as the forthcoming book, is a kind of culmination of what went on in Classroom B, it is decidedly not the end of the work that the men engaged in, week in and out,” Bathanti said.

The writing program at Charles George is one of several similar efforts around the country for veterans. It began to take shape after Bathanti and Kelly began corresponding and concluded that a writing program led by a writer-in-residence at Charles George would be a good way for wounded veterans in Kelly’s care to address their struggles.

The writing program that spawned “Brothers” has been quite a success, according to written testimonials of those who have participated in it. It continues at Charles George, and Bathanti said that “much more” work will come from it. One of Bathanti’s principal interests over the last several years has been helping veterans and their families tell their stories. Bathanti helped arrange for the publication of “Brothers” the book.

Bathanti described “Brothers” the book as “an enduring testimony to their shared sacred sense of community, love and brotherhood. These are stories and poems, large and small, funny and heartbreaking, that only these men can relate in their own inimitable styles – stories and poems not just invaluable to succeeding generations of soldiers, but to every citizen of our country, and beyond.”

Bruce Weigl, a Vietnam veteran and finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, served as Appalachian’s Rachel Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing for the first eight weeks of the Fall 2016 semester. He also praised “Brothers.”

“What a remarkable collection of souls are represented in this collection, and not just the souls of these brave men who fought a jungle war no one wanted to remember and then somehow made their way to poetry,” he said. “It is the lyric beauty of these stories and poems that engages us as readers, but it is the depth of the experience that most singularly distinguishes this work, for which I am grateful.”

As for the reading, “Brothers Like These” was presented for the first time this past August at the Asheville Community Theater. The Appalachian Veterans Arts and Humanities Collective is honored to host the second “Brothers” presentation, Bathanti said. To learn more about the performance and the collective, see http://diversity.appstate.edu/events/id/518.

“Brothers Like These” is being sponsored by several entities at Appalachian, including the Office of Academic Affairs; the Office of Equity, Diversity and Compliance; the Military Affairs Committee; and the Student Veterans Association.


This photo, titled, “Coming into Country,” is of American soldiers arriving in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Troy “Butch” Gudger, one of the Brothers.
Members of the “Brothers Like These” cast pose at the reading’s premiere last August in Asheville. Photo courtesy of the “Brothers” ensemble.