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Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward…
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Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains

by Cassie Chambers

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"Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is the poorest county in Kentucky and the second poorest in 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 amidst these hollers, and through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Cassie'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 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 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 a student 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, Cassie 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"--… (more)
2019 (1) ARC (1) memoir (1) non-fiction (1) to-read (1)

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I received an advance readers copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Cassie Wilson’s memoir was less than compelling until the author got to the part about her Legal Aid advocacy for poor women in Kentucky, when the book filled with fire and passion. I liked the parts about the tough women in her family, and she touches on social issues in Appalachia, but I feel the book tried to cover too much. It was sweet, and I am full of admiration for the author for coming home and pitching in instead of dissing the place from afar, which is the easy way out. If the whole memoir were as exciting as the lone lawyer in the backwoods, meeting underprivileged clients at Dairy Queen with a printer in the back seat of her car, I would love it, but despite my sympathy for the subject matter, I found a lot of it pretty dull. ( )
  jillrhudy | Oct 14, 2019 |
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