The Stories From Long Ago
A regular headliner at the 37-year-old National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., Donald Davis has been a featured storyteller at the Smithsonian Institution and a guest host for National Public Radio’s “Good Evening” program.
Davis, whose newest book is “Tales From a Free-Range Childhood,” will be at The Country Bookshop at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 21, to tell a story or two as well as sign copies of his book.
He received the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Storytelling Network and was selected for the “Circle of Excellence” by the National Storytelling Association. He has written many books of stories, including “Barking at a Fox-Fur Coat” and “Mama Learns to Drive.”
Donald Davis also spent a few years earning a bachelor’s degree in English from Davidson College and then a couple of more earning a graduate degree from Duke University Divinity School. For more than 20 years, he was a United Methodist minister in High Point, but when you ask him how long he has been a storyteller, he will most likely respond: “Forever.”
Because for Donald Davis, storytelling is a way of simultaneously giving and living life. In both his speaking and his writing, he invites each listener/reader to come along, to pull deep inside for their own stories, to personally share and co-create the common experiences that celebrate the creative spirit.
He says that storytelling “is not what I do for a living ... it is how I do all that I do while I am living.”
Davis grew up hearing gentle fairy tales, simple and silly Jack tales, scary mountain lore, ancient Welsh and Scottish folktales, and — most importantly — nourishing, true-to-life stories of his neighbors and kin.
Of having been born and raised in a Southern Appalachian mountain world of storytellers who have lived on the same Western North Carolina land since 1781, Davis says, “I didn’t learn stories; I just absorbed them.”
Those “absorbed” stories are as funny, touching and heart-warming as ever in Davis’s latest release, “Tales from a Free-Range Childhood.”
This collection of childhood adventures is a look back through time to “the good ole days,” when children were free to roam, and to discover their world in a way that has all but disappeared today. It’s a world unknown to today’s youth but is fondly remembered by those who spent their childhoods riding their bikes hither and yon and swinging from ropes over the local swimming hole.
In his book, Davis recounts his Appalachian youth, evoking a Norman Rockwell aesthetic, where remembrances are silly or hopeful or sweetly sentimental. Told more or less chronologically, Davis takes us from butchering his brother’s curly locks and nearly bringing on a bout of apoplexy in his mother to colluding with his father over a totaled car. The tales about his first (and last!) shoplifting experience and the babysitter episode that almost got Davis’ parents arrested are funny and are bound to have many readers remembering similar stories from their own youth.
For information, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692-3211.
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