The Mountain Laurel
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Foxfire's Portrait of Aunt Arie Is Back In Print

By University of North Carolina Press

Issue: June, 1992

Rabun Gap, GA - In 1966, a new graduate of Cornell University took his teaching degree to tiny Rabun Gap, in northeast Georgia. In an effort to get his high school students to learn more about their heritage, Eliot Wigginton sent them out to interview their grandparents and other old-timers and to write about their experiences.

What happened subsequently is now firmly part of American folklore. Wigginton took the best of his students' writings and created a quarterly magazine called Foxfire, which the students were directly involved in writing and producing.

Then came The Foxfire Book. Then came Foxfire 2 and Foxfire 3 and so on until there were, all told, a total of eight Foxfire books.

Early on, when the magazine was on shaky ground and the first book was yet to be published, a visiting student suggested to Wigginton that he bring his students to visit her great-aunt.

Several days later he did so, and that first visit to Aunt Arie Carpenter was unforgettable. When Wigginton entered the small mountain cabin with his students, they found a small elderly lady with "the most disarmingly bright eyes and beautiful smile I had ever seen on any human in my life," struggling to remove the eyes from a hog's head.

"Wig" returned many times with his students, and they subsequently wrote a brief piece about Aunt Arie that appeared in the Foxfire book.

The reaction from Foxfire's fans was astonishing." Of all the people my high school students, my staff members, and I have documented and shared with the outside world since 1966," Wigginton writes, "none has been more warmly embraced than Arie Carpenter."

He adds, "She is the only person we ever wrote about whose personality was so strong and whose face was so compelling that she literally walked off the pages of The Foxfire Book."

Wherever Wigginton traveled to lecture with his students, people would ask about Aunt Arie, even long after her death in 1978. She was immortalized by Jessica Tandy in the Broadway play Foxfire.

When the Foxfire Fund, Inc., decided to launch its own publishing program in 1984, it seemed only natural that their first book would be about the woman who, to many, seemed to be the personality of Foxfire.

Aunt Arie: A Foxfire Portrait was published by the Foxfire press in cooperation with E.P. Dutton in 1984, and it went on to win the Christopher Award that year.

Unavailable for the last several years, the book is now being reissued by the University of North Carolina Press.

The book is not just about Aunt Arie; it is Aunt Arie. In her own words, she discusses everything from planting, harvesting, and cooking to her thoughts about religion and her feelings about living alone.

Also included are testimonials from many who knew her and a wealth of photographs.

The book was edited by Linda Garland Page, one of the original Foxfire students and founding director of the Foxfire Press, and by Eliot Wigginton.

It is available in a $14.95 paperback edition at bookstores or from the University of North Carolina Press. Toll-free orders: 1-800-848-6224 or write The University of North Carolina Press, PO Box 2288, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-2288 for a catalog of all the fine books they print.