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

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

Cassie Chambers. Ballantine, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-984818-91-1

Women in Kentucky’s Appalachian community come into focus in lawyer Chambers’s powerful debut memoir, which aims to put a human face on a stereotyped region. Kentucky native Chambers spent much of her youth in impoverished Owsley County, where her sharecropper grandparents maintained a tobacco farm. Chambers highlights three women who exemplify Appalachian strength: her scrappy grandmother (whose “joy hid the poverty”); her resilient aunt, who sacrificed personal ambition to help run the farm; and her trailblazing mother, who became the first person in the family to graduate from college. Chambers credits them with supporting her as she forged her own path, which included attending Yale and Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, Chambers moved back to Kentucky to provide legal assistance to the poor. She recounts her work on behalf of low-income women, including helping domestic violence victims, and touches on her role as vice-chair for the state Democratic Party. Chambers acknowledges Appalachia’s problems, such as water pollution and the drug epidemic, but these sections—sporadically interspersed throughout the book— only skim the surface of Appalachia’s issues. Still, this is a passionate memoir, one that honors Appalachia’s residents, especially its women. (Jan.)