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Dr. Jim Fogelquist will talk about Speak of It, Marcos McPeek Villatoro’s Recent Memoir at ASA Conference

The 47th Annual Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) Conference will take place from March 7th through the 9th on the campus of Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee, NC. The theme of the conference is “Beloved Community: Pride in Identity, Culture and Geography.” Dr. Jim Fogelquist will be a part of the body of faculty, scholars, and graduate students from Appalachian State University attending the conference. His presentation on Speak of It, a Memoir, the latest book by Marcos McPeek Villatoro, is part of a panel discussion titled: "Race and Power in Appalachian History and Archives."

Spea of It book cover

In his recent memoir, Speak of It, Marcos Villatoro, whose mother was from El Salvador and father from Appalachia, describes the trauma experienced during his childhood due to sexual abuse at the hands of a relative in Rogersville, Tennessee. He recounts how his journey to discover his Latin heritage helped him overcome the trauma and forge a new hybrid identity. 

Searching for the Latino side of his identity, Marcos opted to use his mother’s last name in addition to his father’s while he was living in Nicaragua, henceforth calling himself Marcos McPeek Villatoro, which he later adopted as his legal name in the United States. Working as a volunteer for the organization Witness for Peace, he became involved in social justice work first in Central America and later in Alabama where he and his wife served as advocates for a Mexican migrant community. He immersed himself for years in the Spanish language and Latin-American literature, especially 100 Years of Solitude, the Garcia Márquez’s masterpiece,which he has carried with him like a sacred text for more than thirty years.

“Villatoro’s memoir of his quest to heal from childhood trauma by recovering the roots of his maternal culture is both fascinating and inspiring,” said Jim Fogelquist.

Marcos McPeek Villatoro

Marcos McPeak Villatoro, author of Speak of It

Villatoro was born in 1962 in San Francisco, California. When he was four years old his family moved to the Appalachian Mountains of east Tennessee, where his father was born and raised. In his father's hometown of Rogersville, Tennessee, where he went to elementary school, he suffered both discrimination and sexual abuse. After graduating from a Catholic high school in Knoxville in 1980, he moved to Davenport, Iowa to enroll as a Catholic seminarian at St. Ambrose University. When he fell in love with Michelle Menster, a local girl who was attending St Ambrose, he left the seminary but completed a degree in English. in 1984. They were married a week after graduation. Upon completion of his studies at St. Ambrose University, Villatoro entered the Master’s Program in English at the University of Iowa; he graduated in May of 1985. A few months later he and his wife moved to Nicaragua to work with the nonprofit program Witness for Peace, for which they reported on war atrocities in the northern department of Nueva Segovia, on the Honduran border.

In 1986 the couple moved back to the United States, where they worked at an environmental education camp in the Tennessee Smokey Mountains. In 1988 they joined the missionary program Maryknoll and moved to Guatemala, where they worked there until 1991.

Upon returning to the United States, Villatoro and his wife worked as advocates for a growing migrant farm community in Alabama. In 1996 Villatoro was accepted into the Iowa Writers' Workshop, graduating with an MFA in 1998. The couple and their four children moved shortly after his graduation to Los Angeles, California, where Villatoro was hired to teach creative writing at Mount St. Mary's University and where he currently holds the Fletcher Jones Endowed Chair in Creative Writing.


In addition to six novels, Villatoro has published two collections of poetry and an earlier memoir set in Guatemala, where he and his wife served as missionaries. His Romilia Chacón crime fiction novels, which have been translated into German, Portuguese, Russian, and Japanese, are acclaimed both nationally and internationally. Villatoro has also written essays for National Public Radio and PBS.


  • A Fire in the Earth (1998)

  • The Holy Spirit of My Uncle's Cojones (1999)

  • Home Killings: A Romilia Chacón Novel (2001)

  • Minos: A Romilia Chacón Novel (2004)

  • A Venom Beneath the Skin: A Romilia Chacón Novel (2007)

  • Blood Daughters: A Romilia Chacón Novel (2011)


  • They Say That I Am Two (1998)

  • On Tuesday, When the Homeless Disappeared (2004)


  • Walking to La Milpa (1999)

  • Speak of It (2023)

Dr. Jim Fogelquist

Jim Fogelquist
Jim Fogelquist

Like Villatoro, Dr. Jim Fogelquist is enamored by Hispanic culture and the Spanish language. In his early youth, he lived in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Spain. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Spanish program at UCLA and earned a Ph.D. in Romance Languages from Yale University.

Prior to arriving at Appalachian State University in 2010, Dr. Fogelquist taught as a Spanish professor at Idaho State University, Colorado State University-Pueblo, and Mount Holyoke College. He is a specialist in Medieval and Golden Age Spanish literature, who has published a  a book on Spain’s greatest chivalric romance, Amadis of Gaul, and a critical edition of the Crónica del rey don Rodrigo, a fifteenth century pseudo-historical narrative of the loss of Spain to the Moors and the beginning of the Reconquest. He served as chair of the Department of Languages, Literature, and Cultures at Appalachian State University from 2010 to 2019. Since retiring in 2022, he has continued to teach at Appalachian State University as an adjunct faculty member.


In addition to his career as an educator from 1980 to 1993, Dr. Fogelquist worked in California as a musician with the Uclatán Mariachi, a group that came out of the Institute of Ethnomusicology at UCLA.

Panel: "Race and Power in Appalachian History and Archives" (Session 2.5). Friday. 10:30 am-11:45 am

On March 8th during the panel "Race and Power in Appalachian History and Archives," Dr. Jim Fogelquist of Appalachian State University, will talk about Marcos Villatoro’s Speak of It, a Memoir a testimony to the power of the recovery of his Latin identity and of his writing as healing tools. The session will proceed as follows:

Convener: Kevin Young, Appalachian State University

  • "Unsilenced: Fostering Representational Belonging in the Archives of Appalachia," Nick Shaner, University of Louisville

  • "‘Get the Criminal, But Save the State’: The Role of the Ku Klux Klan within the Antilynching Politics of 1920s’ North Carolina," Kevin Young, Appalachian State University

  • "‘Black Reconstruction,’ Through Musical Resistance in Appalachia," Patrick Salmons, Virginia Tech

  • "Race, Language, and Identity in Marcos McPeek Villatoro’s Speak of It," Jim Fogelquist, Appalachian State University

About the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) Conference

The annual ASA Conference is scheduled for March 7-9, 2024. The event will explore the theme “Beloved Community: Pride in Identity, Culture and Geography,” and celebrate the many successes of the cultural renewal of tthe region in recent times. Special conference sessions will invite participants to explore the progress that has been made in many key areas, including healthcare, the economy, education, and the environment. Learn more at

Writer Marcos Villlatoro is a Pocho. Definition: a piece of rotting fruit; and a halfbreed Latino who knows nothing about his roots. Marcos means to change that: he travels to his other country of El Salvador to search for his family. What he finds leaves him even more lost, and disturbed, than being labeled a pocho.


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