The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

by Kim Michele Richardson

Overview: The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.

Debbie Weiss (05/25/19): Deanna's review of this book is spot on. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is especially nice because it describes two historical facts: (1) The Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, part of FDR's WPA program and (2) The population of blue-skinned people who lived in the Kentucky rural areas.

While based on facts, this book is a novel about a very special woman name Cussy Mary. Cussy Mary had the genetic blue-skinned condition and led a life of discrimination and loneliness because of this. Yet in spite of this, she was strong, determined, kind and spirited. The reader cannot help but root for her every step of the way.

Maybe more importantly, the book addresses prejudices which people still have today against others who are different. In the year 2019's social environment, I found this reminder of how cruel people can be to others a very timely message.
Rating: *****

Deanna Boe (05/13/19): If you like to read, as you obviously know I do, then this is the book for you. It is a historical fiction that increases your knowledge about an area and a program the government conducted in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Not only is it a great book to read, superb storyline, but you learn from it too. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) just so happened to have built the gymnasium for my high school in Iowa back in the early 1940’s; for that reason I have always been fascinated by all the projects the WPA accomplished thanks to our President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was an inspired program to help employ people and get us out of the Great Depression. All over the U.S. there were many amazing projects undertaken by the WPA that we obviously know nothing about, that was true for me in regards to the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project. The government hired women (and a few men) to ride horses or mules deep into the hills of Kentucky where there were no libraries, and few schools. Most of the adults were illiterate, and their children weren’t far behind. The conditions were beyond what most of us would begin to attempt to do today, but these librarians were diligent to their task, traveling as much as 150 miles a week, earning $28. a month plus they had to provide their own mount. They had to go to a room provided in the various communities to sort thru and organize the donated materials they received from other libraries in cities, churches, even businesses who might not be able to get rid of things that might possibly fall under the classification of reading materials. Old newspapers were especially needed to not only read, no matter how old the news, but also to paste on their walls to help keep out the wind and cold air. In short, anything was welcome by these “hill” people.

This particular story is based on another aspect found in Kentucky I had never heard anything about, blue-skinned people. The author weaved these two aspects of Kentucky to deliver a touching and educational story. Evidently there were people who came to America with a genetic defect that caused people to have skin that was tinted blue in color and they happened to settle in the hills of Kentucky. Even if a person with this problem married a person without it, they still might have half their children with skin that looked blue. This is one of the reasons they hid in the hills. They were viewed as “colored” and treated like the negroes of the day. The main character of this story, Cussy, or Bluet as some called her, became a Pack Horse (in her case a mule) Librarian had this condition. You learn of the people she delivered books and materials to, their lives, and prejudices. Several stories will bring a tear to your eye, and all about real people and situations the author learned through her diligent research.

I am not sure if this author has written anything about her own life, but the little I have learned it was not an easy life. Kim Michele Richardson was an orphan, living in an orphanage until her teen years, when she was finally placed in a foster home. In short, she obviously learned about hardship and the importance of compassion which she meticulously presents in this book.
Rating: *****

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