Jeff Biggers

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Jeff Biggers (born in 1963) is an American author, journalist, playwright, and performance artist. He is the author of four books, and co-editor of a fifth. His last book, "State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream," came out in the fall of 2012. Selected as a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Title in Social Science, "State Out of the Union" was praised by Kirkus Reviews as "masterful at showing how the past is prologue…A timely book, especially with immigration policy playing a major role in the upcoming presidential campaign.”

Biggers is a frequent performer and speaker at festivals, theatres, conferences, universities and schools across the country.

As the grandson of a coal miner from southern Illinois, Jeff Biggers has been a vocal critic of mountaintop removal in Appalachia and reckless strip mining across the nation, as well as poorly enforced black lung and mining workplace safety laws, and the fallacy of "clean coal" slogans. Reckoning at Eagle Creek examines the loss of his family's 200-year-old homestead to strip mining, and the historical parallel impact of coal mining on communities and their environment.

Writings[edit]

Winner of the Sierra Club's David Brower Award, "Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland" is a family saga, part memoir, cultural history and journalistic investigation, examining the impact of coal mining on Biggers' native region of southern Illinois. Dating back to the removal of Native Americans, the nonfiction book laces the history of Biggers' family and the destruction of their 200-year-old historic community in the Shawnee forests into the development of the coal industry, from African slavery and coal mining, to a century of workplace safety and labor union struggles, to environmental and heritage movements against strip-mining and coal-fired plants. According to Publishers Weekly, "Part historical narrative, part family memoir, part pastoral paean, and part jeremiad against the abuse of the land and of the men who gave and continue to give their lives to (and often for) the mines, [Reckoning at Eagle Creek] puts a human face on the industry that supplies nearly half of America’s energy…it offers a rare historical perspective on the vital yet little considered industry, along with a devastating critique of the myth of ‘clean coal.’ ”

In reviewing "State Out of the Union," Progressive Magazine wrote: “The title of Jeff Biggers’s sweeping chronicle of Arizona, State Out of the Union, fittingly evokes Lincoln’s ominous words at the outset of the Civil War…Biggers’s lesson for his readers is that throughout its century of turmoil, Arizona’s cycles of conflict move in a progressive trajectory. While many political movements have put down roots in the state, the paths their struggles collectively blaze for the country ultimately point toward emancipation.” According to Technorati: "For Jeff Biggers what the immigration policy of this country should be is as clear as unpolluted, smog-free air, and crystal clean, unchemicalized water. Biggers, an author, journalist, storyteller and playwright is not typical, however. His knowledge and writings about vital trending issues (look for his work in the Huffington Post, Salon.com and Washington Post to name a few) run far and wide. He is a discerning advocate. He has followed and joined the immigration movement in Arizona before and after the fashioning of SB1070. According to Dr. Rudy Acuna, founding chair of the Chicano/a studies department at CSUN, Biggers is one of the few journalists who have been with the movement since the beginning. Acuna has said, Biggers "is a very progressive person. He’s one of the people who I respect because he’s not only writing, but he’s active, and he feels the issue.”

The United States of Appalachia argues that beyond its mythology in the American imagination, Appalachia has long been a vanguard region in the United States-—a cradle of U.S. freedom and independence, and a hot bed for literature and music. Some of the most quintessential and daring American innovations, rebellions, and social movements have emerged from an area often stereotyped as a quaint backwater. In the process, immigrants from the Appalachian diaspora have become some of our nation's most famous leaders. The Asheville Citizen-Times reviewed it as a "masterpiece of popular history...revelations abound." According to a review in the San Antonio Express-News, the book is "full of historical insights...debunking stereotypes is one of the driving motivations behind Biggers' writing."

Winner of Foreword Magazine Travel Book of the Year Award, In the Sierra Madre is a memoir and narrative nonfiction history that chronicles the life and times in one of the most famous, yet unknown, regions in the world. Based on his one-year sojourn among the native Raramuri/Tarahumara, Biggers examines the ways of a resilient indigenous culture in the Americas, the exploits of the Mexican mountaineers, and the parade of argonauts and accidental travelers that has journeyed into the Sierra Madre over centuries. From African explorers, Bohemian friars, Confederate and Irish war deserters, French poets, Boer and Russian commandos, hidden Apache and Mennonite communities, bewildered archaeologists, addled writers, and legendary characters like Antonin Artaud, B. Traven, Sergei Eisenstein, George Patton, Geronimo and Pancho Villa, Biggers searches for the legendary treasures of the Sierra Madre (Mexico's Copper Canyon). In the Sierra Madre won the Gold Medal in Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year Awards (Travel Essays) in 2006. The memoir was praised by Booklist as "an astonishing sojourn." The San Antonio Express-News reviewed that it was "full of historical insights, and unforgettable characters."

Biggers is also a playwright, whose first play, "4½ Hours: Across the Stones of Fire," explores the fate of a family threatened by an impending strip mining operation in their community. The play toured nationally and appeared on Off Broadway at the Gene Frankel Theatre in New York City on June 4–13, 2010. Biggers is currently working with Teatroaperto in Bologna, Italy, on a new play on immigration and Ancient Rome.

Books[edit]

  • Biggers, Jeff (2014). "Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland." Carbondale: SIU Press. ISBN 978-0809333868
  • Biggers, Jeff (2012), "State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream." New York: Nation Books. ISBN 978-1-56858-702-8
  • Biggers, Jeff (2011), "Dans La Sierra Madre". Paris: Albin Michel. ISBN 978-2-226-21504-8
  • Biggers, Jeff (2011), "They'll Cut Off Your Project: A Mingo County Chronicle" by Huey Perry. Foreword by Jeff Biggers. Morgantown: WVU Press. ISBN 978-1-933202-79-2
  • Biggers, Jeff (2010), Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland. New York: The Nation/Basic Books. ISBN 978-1-56858-421-8
  • Biggers, Jeff (2007), In the Sierra Madre. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-03101-6 ISBN 978-0252074998
  • Biggers, Jeff, (2007), The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker and Hoard. ISBN 978-1593761516
  • Biggers, Jeff (2006), In the Sierra Madre. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-03101-6
  • Biggers, Jeff, (2006), The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker and Hoard. ISBN 978-1593760311
  • Biggers, Jeff, Brosi, George and West, Don (2004), No Lonesome Road: Selected Prose and Poems by Don West. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07157-3

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