Sodom Laurel Album

By Rob Amberg

Accompanied by a music CD

Sodom Laurel Album

192 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 136 duotones, audio CD

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-2742-0
    Published: November 2002

Buy this Book

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

2002 Thomas Wolfe Literary Award, Western North Carolina Historical Association

When photographer Rob Amberg first met Dellie Norton and her adopted son, Junior, in 1975, Norton was seventy-six years old and had lived most of her life in the small mountain community of Sodom Laurel, North Carolina, surrounded by close kin, tobacco fields, and the rugged wilderness of the southern Appalachians. Sodom Laurel Album traces the growing relationship between Norton and Amberg across the next two decades, years marked by the seasons of raising and harvesting food and tobacco and by the gatherings of family and friends for conversation, storytelling, and music.

Richly evocative images are interlaced with stories of the people of Sodom Laurel and with Amberg's own candid journals, which reveal his gradually growing understanding of this world he entered as a stranger. The book also includes a CD featuring Dellie Norton, Doug Wallin, and other singers of traditional Appalachian music. Through words, photographs, oral histories, and songs, Sodom Laurel Album tells the moving story of a once-isolated community on the brink of change, the people who live there, and the music that binds them together.

Sodom Laurel Album is the companion publication to a traveling exhibition that will open at the Asheville Art Museum in November 2002.

This project received support from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Published in association with the Center for Documentary Studies, A Lyndhurst Book

About the Author

Rob Amberg is an award-winning photographer and writer who does assignment work for nonprofit organizations, foundations, and publications. He lives in Madison County, North Carolina. Dellie Chandler Norton (1898-1993) was a much-loved storyteller and ballad singer whose songs were recorded by Alan Lomax and John Cohen. In 1990, she received a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award.

For more information about Rob Amberg, visit the Author Page.


"[Amberg's] subjects are worn with the hard work of planting and harvesting tobacco, yet this book celebrates a way of life maintained through generations by the spirit of family and community, story and song. . . . Includes a memorable CD of Dellie Norton and others singing traditional, yet still vital, Appalachian music. This fine work should be included in all social history or regional studies collections and in large public collections."β€”Library Journal

"Amberg's beautiful yet stark and unassuming b&w photos form the book's core. . . . The photos are accompanied by transcribed narratives . . . Most are grim yet immediate and compelling. . . . An exemplary example of regional documentary, the project exhibits care and concern throughout, and will draw in outsiders from any locale."β€”Publishers Weekly

"Although books of photographs should mostly stand solely on the merits of the imagery with few, if any, words, even Rob Amberg's personal journal is unobtrusive, adding an additional level of depth to a document already deeply rich. . . . The photographs, in conjunction with the CD, weave a rich tapestry that warmly embraces you."β€”Journal of Appalachian Studies

"A stunning achievement from top to bottom."β€”Southern Cultures

"A flowing record of candid recollections by Amberg, Norton and her family interwoven with intimate photographs shot over two decades."β€”Carolina Country

"Amberg has skillfully crafted the profound narrative of a community, a family, and most exquisitely, a woman constantly on the brink of change. . . . [He] has assimilated meaning into image and supported those images with the stories, interviews, and music that bind the community of Sodom Laurel together." β€”Appalachian Life