Fred Carlisle, a native of Delaware, meant to leave his hometown far behind. Instead, his desire to understand the powerful connections between places and people led him straight back.
Carlisle’s book “Hollow and Home: A History of Self and Place,” set to be released Aug. 1, explores the ways the primary places in our lives shape the individuals we become — and how a person can form vibrant, supportive communities in unexpected places.
As a young academic, Carlisle’s life took on an itinerant quality. He lived in 10 different locations in five different states, but carried Delaware with him everywhere he went.
“That town remains my center and point of reference—my primary, even my primal place,” Carlisle writes. “I see — I now understand — with the eyes and imagination of a person largely made by Delaware.”
It wasn’t until he moved to southwest Virginia in 1991 that he began to question his lifestyle. Living among fifth and sixth-generation residents in a rural community, Carlisle was inspired to return to Ohio and uncover his father’s past.
“My search led me back not only to him but to my hometown,” writes Carlisle. “Searching for Ervin was my first turn toward the place and heritage I thought I did not have.”
Poignant and powerful with a light touch of theory, Carlisle concentrates on the two places he couldn’t leave behind.
Joseph A. Amato, author of “Everyday Life: How the Ordinary Became Extraordinary” calls the book “open, direct, economical, and vividly honest.”
Carlisle says he hopes that themes of “Hollow and Home” transcend specific localities and speak to the relationship of self and place everywhere. As part of the book launch, he will be speaking at various events throughout areas surrounding Clover Hollow and Delaware.
Carlisle has been writing about identity and place for years. He is the author of four previous books — two memoirs and studies of Walt Whitman and of Loren Eiseley. A former provost at Virginia Tech, he enjoyed a long academic career, lived for a decade in the rural Virginia mountains, and now divides his time between Virginia and South Florida.