Complex Representations of Appalachia in C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings

C.E. Morgan’s ambitious second novel, The Sport of Kings (2016), weaves together mutigenerational tales of two families located in central Kentucky and southern Ohio. While the novel spends most of its energy tackling weighty issues related to systemic racism such as economic inequalities and access to health care in America, several sections of the novel invoke Daniel Boone’s wilderness trail and others present an agrarian landscape and sensibility located outside of the rolling horse country of central Kentucky and the urban setting of Cincinnati. Of particular significance is a brief and quiet moment set near Big Hill, Kentucky, on the edge of the Daniel Boone National Forest that provides respite from the misery common to the novel’s primary settings for both humans and animals and challenges common representations of Appalachia. Penn, the character who lives in Big Hill and befriends the troubled heiress Henrietta Forge, lives plainly and respects the natural world through sustainable farming practices. Penn’s corner of Appalachia proves to be a brief refuge and source of hope in an otherwise hopeless world. This presentation will consider the complicated role of Appalachia in Morgan’s novel.