The award is presented annually by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association to works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry which best illuminate the challenges, personalities and unique qualities of the Appalachian South.
The award was presented Friday, March 28 at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference, at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia. This year’s award was conferred by Jason Howard, editor of the literary journal Appalachian Heritage. Howard read the following comment from the judges regarding Zacharias’s work:
“Mother of Rain is a gem, with beautifully drawn Appalachian characters, a strong sense of time and place, and a deeply important and universal theme: the interconnection of our actions and guilt (the patchwork quilt image). Like Blake, Zacharias deals with the complexity of the ‘fearful symmetry,’ adding a profundity to her tale that gives it a superb richness.”
Past recipients include Barbara Kingsolver, Lee Smith, Amy Greene, Charles Frazier, Ron Rash and Homer Hickam Jr.
“I am so very grateful to win this award from the Appalachian Studies Center. The Weatherford Award is a lovely tribute to the place and the people and the language that has shaped me as a writer and as a thinker,” Zacharias said.
Mother of Rain, published by Mercer University Press, tells the story of Maizee Hurd, a young woman beset by many hardships: she loses her mother when she’s a mere ten years old and is sent to live with her aunt and uncle; she begins to hear voices in her head, voices that call to her as seductively and dangerously as a siren’s song; she falls in love with young Zeb, but their son, Rain, becomes ill and loses his hearing in the first few months of his life; Zeb leaves to fight in WWII.
Zacharias lives in Hermiston, Oregon. She teaches journalism at Central Washington University. She is the author of five previous works of non-fiction, including the true crime memoir A Silence of Mockingbirds, the story behind Oregon’s Karly’s Law.