Sara Gruen, herself a New York Times bestselling author, calls The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek “an unputdownable book.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Thank you, Pauline Proffitt, for recommending it to me. Not since Where the Crawdads Sing captivated me has a book had such a powerful influence on me.
Kim Michele Richardson is the author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a novel featuring Cussy Mary Carter, a traveling librarian with the Pack Horse Library Project in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky.
Cussy, named for her great-grandfather’s birthplace in Cussy, France, is 19 years old, unmarried, and thrilled to be hired as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA projects to carry books and other reading materials to remote parts of the county. She travels by mule, the ill-tempered Junia, who protects her mistress fiercely. Cussy is unmarried, a fact which troubles her father, a Kentucky coal miner, dreadfully.
Cussy also answers to the name “Bluet,” because of her blue skin. She is one of the last “blue people” of Kentucky, her skin blue because of methemoaglobinemia, a genetic disorder which limits her oxygen flow.
Because she’s a “blue,” Cussy is deemed “colored” by the community. She’s different. She’s an outcast, the butt of ridicule, cruelty, and shame.
But somehow she rises above it all. As her father’s black lung progresses, he becomes more and more determined to “marry her off,” arranging for gentlemen to call, promising ten acres of land to the man who will marry her. Mr. Carter sees this as his duty, for to leave Cussy unmarried and without a man to provide for her would be a mortal sin in his eyes.
Cussy, however, is perfectly satisfied with her lot. She slowly makes friends with her patrons, taking them month-old magazines and newspapers, reading to the blind, and compiling a scrapbook of household hints and recipes for the women.
She also witnesses the cruelties of hunger, shedding copious tears as little Henry, a schoolboy, lies dying in her arms as she reads Peter Pan to him and his starving siblings.
She survives a brutal marriage to one of the Fraziers and a cruel attempt at sexual assault by his cousin, a so-called preacher.
She submits to horrific medical tests to determine the cause of her blueness and she serves as a go-between between a young suitor and his girl.
Based on the true story of the Kentucky blue people and the Pack Horse librarians, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a fascinating look into a period of American history which many know little about. It addresses racism, ignorance, sexual abuse, the role of women in American society, and the rape of America by the mining industry.
It’s an unputdownable work.
Stokely Memorial Library has The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Check it out. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.
Located at 383 East Broadway, Stokely Memorial Library is open Mondays—Saturdays from 10-5 and may be reached at 423-623-3832.