Kim Michele Richardson brings the proud and impoverished inhabitants of Eastern Kentucky to life in her latest work, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Even though a few liberties are taken with historical events, Richardson accurately portrays the bigotry towards the Blue people of Kentucky.
The Book Woman
Cussy Mary is the Book Woman. She has blue skin due to the genetics of methemoglobinemia. As part of the plot, her condition is discovered by researchers in Lexington and is tied to similar findings among Alaskan and American Natives. However, the reader needs to overlook the fact that the book has the scientific research done during the Great Depression. In actuality the work was not completed until the 1960s.
A nickname for Cussy Mary is Bluet. Her employer is the WPA as a Kentucky Pack Horse librarian. She faces danger in her work from both man and nature. The patrons along her route receive nourishment for their minds even as they face starvation. Cussy Mary is devoted to her work.
Racism and Poverty
Two key themes in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek are racism and poverty. The term coloreds in 1930s Kentucky lumped African-Americans and the Blues of Eastern Kentucky together. In the story. Cussy Mary and fellow book woman Queenie, who is African-American, look out for each other. Both characters manage to overcome the burden of racism. And both women also escape the abject poverty of the times.
Poverty is color blind. The fate of the Appalachian families during The Great Depression is sobering. Richardson is a master at pulling the heart strings while describing the starvation of the times. But she also has the reader cheering as her characters unite against the immoral legalities of the time.
A key outcome has the townspeople acting against injustice through the ballot box.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was released in May of 2019. Before the protests turned riots of 2020. Yet, the timeliness is incredible. I hope those that have protested lawfully read this book. Kim Michele Richardson speaks to social injustice eloquently. A cross section of society supports Cussy Mary. Furthermore, justice is meted through the ballot box. Something to keep in mind this election year.
So, I highly recommend The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. The writing is excellent. And the characters are compelling. This is a book worth reading and giving.