• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Jesse Donaldson shares his thoughts ‘On Homesickness’

JESSE DONALDSON came to downtown Versailles to read from his book, On Homesickness, at the Woodford County Library last Friday morning, Oct. 27. One of his challenges as an author was writing a book directed at one person, his wife, whom he was trying to convince to come home with him to Kentucky. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Lexington native Jesse Donaldson says he was inspired to write a book with a section on every county in Kentucky when he started feeling homesick. During the Woodford County Library’s Coffee Club last Friday morning, the author shared this personal journey to write a book, On Homesickness, as a way to convince his wife to return home with him to Kentucky. One of his challenges as an author was writing a book directed at one person that would interest other readers, he says. “The idea of the book,” Donaldson told his Friday Coffee Club audience, “is to take this Kentucky sort of myth and history, and weave in through a more personal story…” After finishing his research and then writing entries about all 120 counties in Kentucky, Donaldson began a 28-day tour to visit each of his native state’s counties so he could say he did it. “I don’t necessarily have a personal relationship with each one (of the counties), but I’ve been there. And I’ve kind of paid my respects, I suppose,” he says. While getting to know the Kentucky counties that he’s written about, Donaldson says, “I’m kind of out there getting stories as well.” These stories are shared by random people who he meets along the way. They talk about their personal lives without hesitation. And that, he says, doesn’t happen in Portland. Having grown up in Kentucky, Donaldson says his 18-year-old younger self couldn’t wait to leave here. It was what he wanted to do. “And so I got as far as Ohio,” he says. While he didn’t become Hunter S. Thompson as he once envisioned, life did eventually take him to Iowa, Costa Rica, New York City and Texas, before he fell in love and moved to Portland, Ore. Donaldson says he was entering his mid-30s when he found himself longing to return home to Kentucky. “The truth is I didn’t understand it,” he says. That was because Portland was a nice place to live. A place where his wife had a good job and his daughter was born. Part of why Donaldson wanted to return to Kentucky was this place, where he hadn’t lived for half of his life, was still home. So began his research into Kentucky’s past and a deeper understanding of what about this place makes people like him want to come home again. “I’ve never felt completely at home in Oregon,” Donaldson explains, “because the landscape is a little too foreign to me. The trees are a little too big.” The author says a dog that he adopted while briefly teaching at Eastern Kentucky University, “runs like crazy through the woods, he’s so happy,” when back in Kentucky. “In Oregon, it’s raining outside and you open the door and he looks at you and he shakes his head and slumps down on the front stoop and won’t go outside. And I think he’s a Kentucky dog.”

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