The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. IL: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2019. 308 pages. **** Reading Group Guide, Conversation with the Author.
Cussy Mary Carter is a strong independent woman who thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project works as a traveling librarian. Delivering books from the back of her stubborn, feisty, mule Junia, Cussy provides us a glimpse into a world of poverty, hunger, prejudice, and a people with an eagerness to learn. The only child of a hard-working coal miner, she is determined to stay single and to provide for herself. Her father suffering from a lung disease from working in the mines is equally determined to find her a husband to care for her when he is gone. It's the 1930s and medicine, money, and food are scarce, but the residents of Troublesome Creek look out for their own unless they are people of color. Cussy is the last of her people her skin a light blue, caused by Methemoglobinemia. Many are suspicious of her kind and prejudices run deep causing Cussy to take dangerous risks to deliver the books and find love and friendship along her route.
Richardson has skillfully woven the story of the traveling librarians together with the true blue-skinned-people of Kentucky. I was mesmerized by the life of the characters and stopped midbook to research. Richardson has provided black and white images from the Project, which adds to the story. As a retired librarian, I may be biased in my enthusiasm for her characterization of Cussy. Traveling on horses to deliver books has always seemed adventurous, but the reality of the suffering, hardships, and dangers experienced by the librarians is all too clear in this story. A woman of color traveling alone is an easy target for misguided religious men who are outraged by her mission and the subject of some of the books. I definitely recommend this book even though at times it was a difficult read. The hardships are intense and real. Add it to your "To Be Read" list but carve out some time to be totally absorbed by the story.
Images of the Blue skinned people of Kentucky
Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project:
Kim Michele Richardson lives in Kentucky and resides part-time in western North Carolina. She is an advocate for the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence and has partnered with the Navy globally to bring awareness and education to te prevention of domestic violence. She is the author of the best-selling memoir The Unbreakable Child and is the founder of the tiny home Shy Rabbit, a writer/artists scholarship residency. Her novels include Liar's Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field and the Sisiters of Glass Ferry.