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

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

After rising from poverty to earn two Ivy League degrees, an Appalachian lawyer pays tribute to the strong “hill women” who raised and inspired her, and whose values have the potential to rejuvenate a struggling region—an uplifting and eye-opening memoir for readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated.

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.

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

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

  • Angela M

    Cassie Chambers is an attorney, an Ivy League graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School and in this memoir pays loving tribute to the strong women who graced her life growing up in Appalachian Hills in ...

  • Diane S ?

    A counterpoint to the book Hillbilly Elegy, which tended to show the worst of the Appalachian people. This book shows the best, shows their strong sense of family, their hard work and the hardships th...

  • Karen

    I really enjoyed this book...it is about hill women from the hollers of Kentucky, and my mom comes from the hollers of West Virginia.The author, Cassie Chambers, was able to rise out of poverty to bec...

  • Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !! ”This holler feels like home, and this house feels like family. There are women’s stories here, stories of resilience, love, and strength. This community knows them well, but ...

  • Lisa

    HILL WOMEN was a delightful read that was both enlightening and entertaining. The writing was both passionate and immersing. It’s a well-delivered portrait of the culture of the poorest county in th...

  • Tami

    The more I read this book, the more I was reminded of JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. This is pretty much the female version of his story. Like Vance, Cassie Chambers made it out of her rural hometown a...

  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    3.5 starsOwsley County is one of the poorest counties not only in the state of Kentucky but also the United States.Cassie Chambers spent a lot of her childhood in Owsley with family while her mom fini...

  • Donna Davis

    Cassie Chambers was born and raised in Owsley County, Kentucky, the poorest county in the United States. With the determination handed down to her by her mother and grandmother, she attended Ivy Leagu...

  • Karen Rush

    Cassie Chambers has led a rich and joyful life despite living in extreme poverty. Filling her days laboring in the tobacco fields, living in a particleboard farmhouse, yet she never felt deprived. Cas...

  • Denise Wilbanks | This Is My Everybody | T.I.M.E.

    Past. Present. Future… Those three things can seem like three completely different worlds in your life, can't they? And maintaining a connection between those three -- as much as you love and honor ...