Thursday, June 6, 2019

Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received the review copy of this book several months ago but, within the first few pages, I was so distressed for its protagonist that I had to set the book aside. I had been drawn to it both by the pack horse librarian aspect of the story but also because I have a friend from Kentucky who knew a blue person, likely from the original Fugate family.(1) All in all, it sounded like a fascinating book of historical fiction, and it is, but reader, it is an emotionally grueling read. Still, I'm glad I read it and can only recommend it. But expect heartbreak, even though the ending is very hopeful.

Logically, I suppose one can always equate the color of one's skin with one's genes and skin color is something we can seldom change and, at least to me, the whole concept of race is a stupid construct that says nothing about a person other than whether they're more prone to getting melanoma or something. The blue people of Kentucky were counted as black, and in the Depression-era Deep South, you can imagine how most black people were treated. With that in mind, cast your mind to the isolated hollers of Kentucky, where areas like Troublesome Creek were insular, hard to reach, with high levels of illiteracy. Books and school were often a luxury. The pack horse librarians, who worked for the Pack Horse Library Project funded by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), were a favorite project of Eleanor Roosevelt.(2,3)

Nineteen-year-old Cussy Mary Carter, daughter of a slowly dying coal miner, is an unforgettable heroine who sees the power of books, of literacy, to broaden people's minds, offer the solace of escape, keys to a better life, and hope for a better future. She's a brave, kind, and transcendent figure in this story. There is nothing easy in this story, however. Be prepared to cry. A lot. But read it. Really. It's worth it.

The audiobook is beautifully narrated by Katie Schorr.

(1) Read more about the Blue People here, from a reprint of a Science article.

(2) You can hear a bit more about the Pack Horse Library Project on this NPR episode here.

3) A Smithsonian article for your further reading.

Content Warnings: rape, attempted rape, domestic violence, racist violence, child deaths, suicide, animal abuse.

I received a Digital Review Copy and a paper review copy of this book from Sourcebooks via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.




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