Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains
An enlightening and entertaining book of one woman’s journey out of the Kentucky mountains and back.
HILL WOMEN is Cassie’s Chambers memoir tracing her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Cassie grew up in Owsley County, one of the poorest counties in Kentucky. Cassie use her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and to illuminate a troubled region. Cassie wants to make sure no one underestimates the “fire, grace and grit” of the women that live in the Kentucky mountains.
Cassie’s Granny was a child bride who rose before dawn every morning to care for seven children. Granny’s two daughters took very different paths: strong-willed Ruth—the hardest-working tobacco farmer in the county—stayed on the family farm, while Wilma—the sixth child—became the first in the family to graduate from high school, then moved a hour away for college. Married at nineteen and pregnant with Cassie a few months later, Wilma beat the odds and finished college.
Cassie spent much of her childhood with Granny and Ruth in the hills of Owsley County, where she was raised with “hill women” values. Cassie went to an Ivy League college and graduated from Harvard Law. She ultimately moved back to help her fellow rural Kentucky women by providing free legal services.
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 the country as well as how one can emerge from it. Cassie skillfully transports us to the hills of Kentucky and gives us a beautifully descriptive vision of the women that live there.
I appreciated her honesty in her writing about her feelings of the family she had left behind and of not fitting in at Yale and Harvard. I found the discussion of the divergent paths between she and her cousin intriguing I loved how, after many years of being away, she felt the desire to go back to Kentucky to help those in need. Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Cassie, her mother, Wilma, her Aunt Ruth and her Granny. These feisty hill women have already begun a charge for change in the hills of Kentucky.
CASSIE CHAMBERS graduated from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Chambers then received a Skadden Fellowship to return to Kentucky to do legal work with domestic violence survivors in rural communities. In 2018, she helped pass Jeanette’s Law, which eliminated the requirement that domestic violence survivors pay an incarcerated spouse’s legal fees in order to get a divorce. She lives in Louisville with her husband, Bryan and their son.
Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher Ballantine Books
Published January 7, 2020