Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains
Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in both Kentucky and the country. Buildings are crumbling and fields sit vacant, as tobacco farming and coal mining decline. But strong women are finding creative ways to subsist in their hollers in the hills.
Cassie Chambers grew up in these hollers and, through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Chambers’s Granny was a child bride who rose before dawn every morning to raise seven children. Despite her poverty, she wouldn’t hesitate to give the last bite of pie or vegetables from her garden to a struggling neighbor. Her two daughters took very different paths: strong-willed Ruth—the hardest-working tobacco farmer in the county—stayed on the family farm, while spirited Wilma—the sixth child—became the first in the family to graduate from high school, then moved an hour away for college. Married at nineteen and pregnant with Cassie a few months later, Wilma beat the odds to finish school. She raised her daughter to think she could move mountains, like the ones that kept her safe but also isolated her from the larger world.
Cassie would spend much of her childhood with Granny and Ruth in the hills of Owsley County, both while Wilma was in college and after. With her “hill women” values guiding her, Cassie went on to graduate from Harvard Law. But while the Ivy League gave her knowledge and opportunities, its privileged world felt far from her reality, and she moved back home to help her fellow rural Kentucky women by providing free legal services.
Appalachian women face issues that are all too common: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, a world that seems more divided by the day. But they are also community leaders, keeping their towns together in the face of a system that continually fails them. With nuance and heart, Chambers uses these women’s stories paired with her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and illuminate a region whose poor communities, especially women, can lead it into the future.
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Another great Appalachia book:
Goodreads blurb: A daughter’s quest to find, understand, and save her charismatic, troubled, and elusive father, a self-mythologizing Mexican immigrant who travels across continents–and across the borders between imagination and reality; and spirituality and insanity–fleeing real and invented persecutors.
If you are expecting the type of memoir that is a simple recollection of life events, you’re in for a surprise with this one. This story is intense, dramatic, and at times reads like a thriller. Ms. Guerrero’s telling of her search for understanding of her past is un-put-downable. This book is really two stories in one, as the author tells us about her own life as well as her father’s. The intensity of their relationship and experiences is almost overwhelming at times. In addition to the life stories, there is also a good deal of 20th century Mexico history included. I found this quite enlightening, as I quickly realized I know next to nothing about Mexico and its history. I also have never been there but the author did a great job of describing the locations where the story took place. This memoir reads better than much of the fiction out there and I highly recommend you check it out.
Alinefromabook’s rating: 5 stars!!
Links: Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s website
A story that will move and enlighten you! Tara was raised by parents who live on the fringes of society. They are survivalists living at the base of a mountain in Idaho. They claimed they were homeschooling their children but the education they offered was little more than how to read and write. Tara did not enter a classroom until she was 17 and a freshman at Brigham Young University. To say she experienced culture shock would be an understatement. And few would think it possible that she would end up with a PhD from Cambridge University.
First, I love her writing style. The narrative is easy to read and flows very nicely without ever getting bogged down. I could hardly put this book down. Second, her story will pull at your emotions. Some scenes are disturbing but necessary to effective relating the story and the challenges, both physical and emotional that she had to overcome. Finally, I found this book to be inspiring. Tara comes to adulthood with the odds stacked against her but she has a determination which allows her to continually try again. Overall, I loved this book and highly recommend it.
Alinefromabook’s rating: 5 stars!!
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