The Believers Author:Janice Holt Giles Janice Holt Giles was born on March 28, 1909, in Altus, Arkansas, at the home of her maternal grandparents. Soon her mother, Lucy Elizabeth McGraw Holt, joined her father, John Albert Holt, who was teaching Choctaw children in what is now Oklahoma. In 1917, the Holt's moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where Janice graduated from high school and, in... more » 1927, married Otto Moore. The next year a daughter, Libby, was born. The Moore's were divorced in 1939, and Janice and Libby moved to Frankfort and then Louisville, Kentucky, where Giles continued to work as she had in Arkansas as a secretary to church congregations, associations and seminaries.
In 1943, Janice met Henry Giles when he boarded her bus dressed in his Army uniform. They shared a seat on a trip that took him to a Texas Army base and her back home to Arkansas and began a spirited correspondence. The next year Libby married a G. I., named Nash Hancock, and in 1945 Janice and Henry Giles were wed. In 1949 the Giles' moved to a forty acre farm on the Green River in the hills of Adair County, Kentucky, on land first settled by a Giles ancestor in 1804 on a Revolutionary War Grant. It was here that she began her literary career with a trilogy of novels about life in the hills which remain to this day among her most popular works. While many others wrote of desperate mountain communities saved by outsiders, Giles wrote in The Enduring Hills, Miss Willie, and Tara's Healing of desperate outsiders who moved into mountain communities to "do good," but found that the strong hill folk could help them to get their own lives together! No wonder these books are so popular among native mountaineers! When Janice Holt Giles' husband became a little sensitive to the literary fame of his wife, she responded by working with him on a novel, Harbin's Ridge, which was initially published under his name alone. Janice Holt Giles' power as a historical novelist was clearly established by Hannah Fowler, the story of a strong pioneer woman, and The Believers, a novel of the Shaker religious community which presents a touching portrait of a woman oppressed by religious fanaticism.
When the Army Corps of Engineers dammed up the Green River, the Giles' were forced to rebuild, completing their new home in 1958. Almost all Giles books before were set in the Kentucky hills. After this move, Janice Holt Giles devoted most of her energy to writing about the West and to autobiographical writing. Here she produced six very popular Western novels, including three adopted by book clubs, Johnny Osage, Savanna, and Voyage to Santa Fe. Janice Holt Giles died at the home she described re-building in A Little Better Than Plumb on June 1, 1979 at the age of 70.
Janice Holt Giles was a farm wife whose avocation was writing. This gave her a true feeling for what life was really like for hill people, yet it probably also kept her from receiving the academic attention she deserves. Her much-loved non-fiction personal experience books, her trilogy of books which examine the hill country culture, and especially her historical novels of both the early and later West all are based on thorough scholarship. Her books deal with universal themes and display a deep and broad spectrum of thought and insight. They retain a devoted audience today and deserve more critical attention.« less