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

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After rising from poverty to earn two Ivy League degrees, an Appalachian lawyer pays tribute to the strong “hill women” who raised and inspired her, and whose values have the potential to rejuvenate a struggling region—an uplifting and eye-opening memoir for readers of Hillbilly Elegy and Educated.

Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in both Kentucky and the country. Buildings are crumbling and fields sit vacant, as tobacco farming and coal mining decline. But strong women are finding creative ways to subsist in their hollers in the hills.

Cassie Chambers grew up in these hollers and, through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Chambers’s Granny was a child bride who rose before dawn every morning to raise seven children. Despite her poverty, she wouldn’t hesitate to give the last bite of pie or vegetables from her garden to a struggling neighbor. Her two daughters took very different paths: strong-willed Ruth—the hardest-working tobacco farmer in the county—stayed on the family farm, while spirited Wilma—the sixth child—became the first in the family to graduate from high school, then moved an hour away for college. Married at nineteen and pregnant with Cassie a few months later, Wilma beat the odds to finish school. She raised her daughter to think she could move mountains, like the ones that kept her safe but also isolated her from the larger world.

Cassie would spend much of her childhood with Granny and Ruth in the hills of Owsley County, both while Wilma was in college and after. With her “hill women” values guiding her, Cassie went on to graduate from Harvard Law. But while the Ivy League gave her knowledge and opportunities, its privileged world felt far from her reality, and she moved back home to help her fellow rural Kentucky women by providing free legal services.

Appalachian women face issues that are all too common: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, a world that seems more divided by the day. But they are also community leaders, keeping their towns together in the face of a system that continually fails them. With nuance and heart, Chambers uses these women’s stories paired with her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and illuminate a region whose poor communities, especially women, can lead it into the future.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 7, 2020

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Cassie Chambers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,054 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
February 8, 2020
A counterpoint to the book Hillbilly Elegy, which tended to show the worst of the Appalachian people.
This book shows the best, shows their strong sense of family, their hard work and the hardships they face daily. Owsley County, KY is one of the poorest counties in the nation, but despite that these proud people soldier on, without public aid.

Women and their strength, women who encourage their children to get a higher education, knowing that is their ticket out of the poverty that encompasses so many. The author parents, even after her birth, did finish college, and the author would get more than one degree. Still, she has find memories of her time, when younger, spending time there, working with her aunt. It is a place and family that she cherishes.

An ode to strong women, women that pass on their morals, sense of family and strength of character.

ARC from librarything.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
December 2, 2019
Cassie Chambers is an attorney, an Ivy League graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School and in this memoir pays loving tribute to the strong women who graced her life growing up in Appalachian Hills in Owsley County Kentucky in a place called Cow Creek. It’s a place steeped in poverty, but filled with people of grit, gumption, creativity, hard working people like her grandmother, her mother and her aunt. The poverty is extensive, as she describes the lives of the people here. Her family was more fortunate than some as share croppers, even though they didn’t own the land. Grueling hard work was part of her grandmother’s every day existence and in spite of the poverty and difficult life, her grandmother still found joy in life and family. She describes her Aunt Ruth as “the best worker in Owsley County”, devoting herself to her mother and father and the farm when her siblings left to get married. Her mother, Wilma, the first in the family to graduate from college, is the role model who encouraged Cassie to get an education. It is the things she learned from them, the values they instilled in her to which she attributes her life choices and the wherewithal to to achieve what she has.

This is more than a tribute to these amazing women of the hills, though. It’s an expose of the injustices in many ways that these hill communities endure because of the lack of health care, the lack of outside help that leaves these people without services available to other parts of the country. After living a more “privileged life” as she lives in cities where she goes to college and law school, she wants to give back. Cassie returns after getting her law degree from Harvard to provide legal aid mostly to women. Women who have endured spousal abuse, custody battles, divorce, or are struggling to get social services so they could feed their children are among her clients. She shares some of these heartbreaking stories and it’s eye opening. While it’s somewhat repetitive and moved around in time a bit, it’s filled with heart and love and a deep respect she has for her family and other hill women .

I received an advanced copy of this book from Ballantine through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Karen.
573 reviews1,114 followers
December 16, 2019
I really enjoyed this book...it is about hill women from the hollers of Kentucky, and my mom comes from the hollers of West Virginia.
The author, Cassie Chambers, was able to rise out of poverty to become a lawyer with two Ivy League Degrees, and became an advocate for the poor in Kentucky.
Cassie came from a long line of hard working folks who were very poor and none had gone far at all in school, they had to work the fields of the tobacco farm they lived on. Her mother was the only child of her grandparents to graduate high school and attend college, making life better for herself.
Casie addresses the problems of living in these areas.. why people find it so hard to rise up out of poverty.
I was reminded so much of my mom’s years in the hills and her relatives there when reading the parts of her book when she talks about her Granny and Papaw and Aunt Ruth, and what living in the holler was like. I just loved those parts of the book!

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House-Ballantine
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,740 reviews2,266 followers
June 11, 2021

”This holler feels like home, and this house feels like family. There are women’s stories here, stories of resilience, love, and strength. This community knows them well, but their echo hasn’t reached far enough into the outside world. Instead, these tales have ricocheted within the mountains, growing more faint with time. I want to tell these stories because they matter, because I’m afraid that they will be forgotten, because they have the power to make this community visible. As I stop my vehicle and walk toward the house, the memories wash over me like the sunlight on the mountain hills.”

Chambers returned to Owsley County, Kentucky – one of the poorest counties in the state as well as the U.S. - after being one of the few young women raised there who pursued an education after high school, her mother before her setting the example and encouraging her to pursue her dreams of experiencing life beyond these hills.

”I don’t have enough ways to honor them, these women of the Appalachian hills. Women who built a support system for me and for others. The best way I know is to tell their stories.”

A memoir of growing up in poverty, of the women who inspired her to reach for her dreams, to believe in her self-worth enough to graduate from Yale and Harvard Law, and has helped others along the way. She also includes her personal struggles to accept how each place had become a part of her, giving her unique perspectives that benefitted the people she has helped, perhaps more importantly these women struggling against the laws established in this very patriarchal culture that includes additional deterrents for women in particular: domestic violence and poverty, along with laws that have failed not only to protect them, but has penalized those seeking protection.

My father grew up in the hollers of West Virginia, and was lucky enough to recognize his desire to become a pilot at a very young age, and luckier still that his dream not only came true, but that he made a difference in airline safety, his passion. I’ve visited the small town where he grew up, met some of the people who were his friends, and been charmed and moved by the honest generosity of those I met, but it is still easy to see the depth of poverty that exists there, and the limitations it can present.

A nicely balanced glimpse at the lives of these Hill Women that offers insight into the struggles and problems unique to these communities while recognizing and appreciating the positive sides of their sense of community, as well. An inspiring read.

Published: 07 JAN 2020

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine / Ballantine Books through NetGalley
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,122 reviews30.2k followers
September 2, 2021
Thank you, Random House, for the gifted paperback. I also bought a hardcover copy.

Hill Women has been compared to Hillbilly Elegy, and I read both books in close succession. They are quite different in my opinion. Cassie grew up deep in the mountains of Kentucky, and her story highlights the women who raised her. Chambers’ Granny had seven children and was up at dawn every day. She was generous and resilient, and despite poverty, she raised a daughter, Wilma, who graduated from high school, had Cassie while in college, and also graduated from there as well.

During the time that her mother was in college, Cassie lived with Granny and Ruth, Wilma’s sister, while Wilma was in college and after. The values Cassie shared with the strong women in her family eventually brought her to graduate from Harvard Law school. She could have gone anywhere after graduation, but she moved home to Kentucky to work for her community providing free legal counsel.

Cassie Chambers’ story is an inspiring one. I loved how she challenges the myth of the hillbilly and regional stereotyping. She also spotlights the strengths of the women in her family and community.

My grandmother was the oldest of nine children born to a tenant farmer in the poorest county in our state. Her strength and resilience shaped a large part of how I was raised and who I am today. I never tire of inspiring stories like Hill Women. A must read and I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from Cassie Chambers in the future.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Howard.
333 reviews231 followers
December 17, 2022
What follows is a conversation between the author, Cassie Chambers, and her Aunt Ruth. Aunt Ruth has lived her entire life in Owsley County, which is located in the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky. The county, by most measurements, is the poorest and most economically depressed county in the United States.

I was sitting with Aunt Ruth in her kitchen, telling her that people across America were becoming interested in these parts of the Appalachian Mountains. I told her about the books and articles and the national debate about mountain communities like hers. One book, a New York Times bestseller, was just one county over, I said ….

The first expression to flash across her face was pride. She was proud to have the spotlight shine on her community. She often feels like the rest of the world doesn’t notice that she exists. That flash was quickly replaced by something akin to annoyance. ‘I bet they just call us a bunch of old hillbillies,’ she said.

I confirmed that she is right, that the term ‘hillbilly’ is thrown around loosely and descriptively.

The New York Times bestseller that Chambers referred to is, of course, J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. In some ways, Hill Women can be read as Chambers’ rebuttal. Since it was inevitable that her book would be compared to Vance’s book, she was often asked to give her thoughts on his book. She had this to say in an interview:

I’m fine being open about J.D. Vance. I never fault anyone for telling their story and think that’s all of our right. I take issue with the way his book portrays the area as hopeless and broken, and really tries to frame problems as moral failings of individuals, as opposed to systems. I think in some ways our stories have very similar arcs, but the way that we explain our success differs … It took three generations of women working really hard to give me those opportunities ….

I think sometimes we fall into this J.D. Vance narrative of rags to riches, of ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and ‘if you really set your mind to it you can do whatever you want, young man,’ and that really takes out the complexity of what social change looks like and what progress looks like for an individual. I think it’s really harmful and detrimental in the long run.

Chambers grew up in Berea, a town of about 15,000 people, located where the blue grass country meets the Appalachians, but she has strong ties to Owsley County.

When she was quite small and her parents were both in college and could not afford daycare, she stayed in Owsley County with her grandparents and her Aunt Ruth. There was a time, she said, in which she stayed there more than she did at home. And she loved it.

In fact, the title of her book primarily refers to three women, three "tall women," who made Owsley County their home. She gives them full credit for her success in life: her Granny, married at age 15 to a man she hardly knew and who was almost twenty years her senior; her Aunt Ruth, who possessed a forceful and independent personality, who did not marry until she was in her 40s; and her mother, Wilma, the first in her family to finish high school, who left home to attend college, married at 18, and became the first in her family to earn a college diploma. She is extremely proud of these mountain women, especially her mother, to whom the book is dedicated.

The book is also a memoir, a memoir of a fourth "tall woman," one who left eastern Kentucky to attend Yale where she earned a degree in public health, followed by a law degree at Harvard. She returned to Kentucky where she practices law, teaches at Louisville University, and provides free legal counsel for victims of domestic violence in rural communities who are too poor to hire a lawyer.

Thanks, Charlene.
Profile Image for Lisa.
621 reviews234 followers
January 4, 2020

HILL WOMEN was a delightful read that was both enlightening and entertaining. The writing was both passionate and immersing. It’s a well-delivered portrait of the culture of the poorest county in the country as well as how one can emerge from it. Cassie skillfully transports us to the hills of Kentucky and gives us a beautifully descriptive vision of the women that live there.

I appreciated her honesty in her writing about her feelings of the family she had left behind and of not fitting in at Yale and Harvard. I found the discussion of the divergent paths between she and her cousin intriguing I loved how, after many years of being away, she felt the desire to go back to Kentucky to help those in need. Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Cassie, her mother, Wilma, her Aunt Ruth and her Granny. These feisty hill women have already begun a charge for change in the hills of Kentucky.

CASSIE CHAMBERS graduated from Yale College, the Yale School of Public Health, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School, where she was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Chambers then received a Skadden Fellowship to return to Kentucky to do legal work with domestic violence survivors in rural communities. In 2018, she helped pass Jeanette’s Law, which eliminated the requirement that domestic violence survivors pay an incarcerated spouse’s legal fees in order to get a divorce. She lives in Louisville with her husband, Bryan and their son.

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Ballantine Books
Published January 7, 2020
Review www.bluestockingreviews.com
Profile Image for Jess.
524 reviews9 followers
May 15, 2020
*Audiobook Review* Yay, another liberal who thinks visiting granny in Appalachia a few times as a kid means they can exploit the region for publicity. This is like a mixture of Educated and Hillbilly Elegy but with a way more boring family. The first half is about said boring family, and it was just okay. I was eager to listen to the second half, to hear how Cassie moves to Appalachia, starts a business, and employs locals to help turn the communities around! Sadly, what I got was Cassie, after touting expensive college degrees as the only forward, moving to a major city in Kentucky, far from Appalachia, and becoming another worthless politician. My personal favorite bit of the book, outside the “Orange Man bLuRMpF is so bad!” references, is when she insinuates the opioid crisis is because there’s not enough skating rinks and other entertainment in the area. Such wisdom! Lastly, can people stop with the cartoonish characterizations of Appalachians and Appalachian culture ? I spent a good amount of time in the city right next to the one in this book. I didn’t think a thing of the place. It’s very unremarkable- a normal area with normal people. But that wouldn’t make a good story to appeal to the savior complex of big city elites. We get another silly, outdated picture of life in Appalachia. This book attempts to differentiate itself by peppering the narrative with trendy feminist talking points. “Some women did this, some women did that, women, women, Brett Kavanaugh is guilty, buy this book because woooomaaann!!!”
Profile Image for Tami.
875 reviews
December 20, 2019
The more I read this book, the more I was reminded of JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. This is pretty much the female version of his story. Like Vance, Cassie Chambers made it out of her rural hometown and ended up at Yale, earning a law degree.

It’s admirable that Cassie wanted to better herself enough to do the work required to enjoy a better life. It’s also admirable that she has gone back to her home state to help make life better for others. But when it came to some of her own family members, she accepted their lack of ambition, made excuses for them and failed to encourage them to get an education.

I did expect more from this book. Once I got about halfway through, I felt like I had learned all she had to tell and I was right. I wish I had not wasted my time finishing the second half. It’s not a bad book, but I just felt like she had nothing new to say.

Thank you, NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
Profile Image for Donna Davis.
1,757 reviews235 followers
February 22, 2021
Cassie Chambers was raised in Owsley County, Kentucky, the poorest county in the United States. With the determination handed down to her by her mother and grandmother, she attended Ivy League schools and became a practicing attorney. This memoir is her story as well as a defense of the women from her homeland, a manifesto opposing stereotypes and misconceptions. I read it free and early thanks to Net Galley and Random House Ballantine. It will be available to the public January 7, 2020.

Eastern Kentucky is in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, and its residents are stereotypically called hillbillies by outsiders. As a scholar whose childhood was rooted there, Chambers is in a unique position to share the culture’s nuances and strengths. She was raised by parents that had to save up to buy her a set of Old Maid cards from Walmart; going out to dinner, which happened Sundays, meant a single Happy Meal at McDonald’s shared three ways. But her mother’s determination to graduate from college drove home the value of an education, and when Cassie had the opportunity to spend the last two years of high school at a boarding school for high achieving students, she leapt and her family supported her.

Chambers’ narrative is intimate and deeply absorbing. She weaves her own story into the larger story of Appalachian women: their culture, their history, their strengths and the challenges they face. She discusses the difficulty of receiving public services in an area that is spread out among hills and hollers, devoid of transit and low on personal transportation, and that has no government buildings to speak of; she also describes the pride that sometimes prevents its residents from accepting help for which they are qualified. She has a bottomless well of riveting anecdotes that illustrate the sense of community and willingness to lend assistance to neighbors in need even when those offering help have nothing extra to give; the Justice system often fails those that need protection from domestic abuse, as well as those addicted to drugs and alcohol. And she discusses remedies, including Jeanette’s Law, which reverses Kentucky’s absurd legal requirement that victims of domestic abuse must provide the spouses that they are divorcing with an attorney at their own expense. This was one of Chambers’ most important projects. Another is having expungement fees waived for low income residents, an especially urgent matter since in Kentucky, felons aren’t allowed to vote. Democracy is sidelined when class and race become obstacles to participation in civic life.

But the most memorable tidbits are the more personal stories, for example that of her Aunt Ruth, who married late in life. Before they were wed, Aunt Ruth had a conversation with Sonny, her husband-to-be, in which she explained to him carefully that if he ever hit her, she would be forced to kill him, in his sleep if necessary, using a large claw hammer, and so if this was likely to be a problem then the wedding should be canceled. (It wasn’t.)

The best memoirs combine a social issue or political problem with a personal story told by a top-drawer storyteller, and Hill Women succeeds richly in both regards. I recommend this book to women everywhere, and to those that love them.
Profile Image for Susan.
Author 8 books75 followers
December 10, 2019
A publicist wrote, suggesting that since I’d enjoyed the book “Educated,” I’d probably also like “Hill Women” which releases in January. I took her word and read it.

Hill Women is the memoir of Cassie Chambers. Cassie grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky, which must be a pretty rough place. I could relate to some of what she wrote about: I, too, had a “Mamaw” and “Papaw.” I heard plenty of “ain’t” and country music. Although I grew up in southern Indiana, it wasn’t all that far from Kentucky, and “Kentuckian jokes” were regular fare in my childhood. Like Cassie, my high school mascot was an owl (hers because she grew up in Owsley County, mine — I’m not sure why).

I enjoyed the first part of the book, where Cassie discusses her upbringing. Her mom, aunt, and grandma teach her what she says mountain women learn: the value of work, and that hard work pays off. “My mother built her life around teaching me,” Cassie writes, and due to that she succeeds. She goes to a fancy high school out-of-state, and ends up at Yale.

Along the way, and especially once she leaves the community, Cassie begins to question her upbringing and her childhood home town. She looks at her parents’ and grandparents’ lives and isn’t very happy with them. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to satisfactorily square the gentleness, kindness, and love I saw between them with what I believe to be right and just.” This is where I feel her troubles begin — her mom and grandma seem happy with their lives, but Cassie isn’t. Cassie feels out of place in her Ivy League School. She is embarrassed when she takes her mom to New York City and her mom wears a fanny pack.

After becoming a lawyer, Cassie returns to her hometown to represent poor people, often women who are in bad situations and can’t afford legal representation. This is admirable. But when Cassie later gets married, she marries in Louisville (to the former Louisville mayor’s lawyer son). None of her relatives attend: “Louisville might as well be Beijing as far as they’re concerned … They don’t have cellphones; I don’t know that they have ever seen a parking garage. They don’t know how to get around in a city the size of Louisville, let alone how to use a GPS to guide them.” I was really surprised, given her closeness to her relatives, that she didn’t get married at a place they could attend.

Then, the final section of the book goes into her shock and distress over Donald Trump’s election. I shouldn’t be surprised I guess; once I started the book I found out that Cassie is vice-chair of the Kentucky Democrat Party. She struggles in this part of the book in my opinion, as she tries to square her admiration of her Kentucky relatives and their hard work with the fact that many of them support Trump. She talks with relatives until she finds some who tell her that their support for Trump is waning, and this leads her to feel hopeful: “Maybe our politics aren’t as divided as we think.” Ummm … because people come over to your way of thinking? Not sure it works that way.

I feel this book would have been better as a childhood memoir. Once the author got political, I feel she alienated a large portion of her readers. Had I known that the book would get into her liberal politics, I would not have read it.
Profile Image for Teresa.
644 reviews11 followers
December 9, 2019
Unfortunately, this is not a good review for this book. From the description of the story I was looking forward to hearing of the trials, tribulations, aspirations and accomplishments of the author as she overcomes her childhood. But that is not exactly what this is about, yes, we do learn of her family challenges, their life in poverty, and her grandmother’s dream of sending her mother to college, but I almost felt it was her parents story we should have been reading about, her mother and father worked so hard to get an education and they overcame more obstacles than Cassie did. The author learned how to use wise counselors and her hard-earned grade point average to aspire to an ivy league school, she smartly used the college free system and earned scholarships. Yes, she worked hard, but she didn’t live dirt poor due to her mother and father’s aspirations of providing a good home and life for her.
Then about 50% into the book, when she has survived the hardships of college, overcame her feelings of inadequacy and began a career back in Kentucky, the story went downhill. I had not expected to read about the failing legal system nor the inadequacies of Kentucky law and especially didn’t expect to learn about the Democratic aspirations of the author.
I started skimming the pages about 60% in and once it started on the political side of things, I quit. I choose to not read books about politics, I get enough of that just watching TV or on the internet. I choose to read books for pleasure, unfortunately this book crossed that line. I wish the description would have alluded to the full “rest of the story”.
I appreciate the opportunity from Random House Publishing Group through NetGalley to allow me to read an ARC. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. This one gets 2**’s.
December 3, 2019
3.5 stars

Owsley County is one of the poorest counties not only in the state of Kentucky but also the United States.

Cassie Chambers spent a lot of her childhood in Owsley with family while her mom finished college and returned throughout her life seeking connection with her roots.

Chambers shares family history to allow readers to understand where she began:  her granny was a child bride who raised seven children isolated in a holler of Kentucky and most of her children gave up on education before high school.  Her two daughters took very different paths: Ruth became the hardest working tobacco farmer in Owsley while Wilma became the first to graduate from high school and then moved an hour away to attend college.
Wilma married at nineteen and then had Cassie soon after, taking time off from college to focus on Cassie.  Against the odds, Wilma returned and completed her degree when Cassie was little.

Wilma's determination opened a world to Cassie that would've otherwise been impossible.  Cassie understood the importance of education and held on to the values learned from the hardworking women of Appalachia, leading her to the Ivy League where she graduated from Harvard Law.
Her roots led her back to Kentucky where she practices law and provides free legal services to rural Kentucky women.

Weaving together the past with her own story, Chambers provides a compelling look at the world opened up to her and how her family shaped her goals and values.  

Hill Women focuses on the strong women of Appalachia and the family history is the shining star of this book.  The discussion of poverty is matter of fact and fairly balanced, acknowledging the different mindsets on government assistance and reflecting on changes over time.

Its weakness lies in the fact that politics are left out of the history but appears at the very end to discuss Trump's influence on Appalachia.  I realize Chambers recently became involved in politics so its fair this would be discussed but I expected she would cover some of the government influence on Appalachia during her Granny and mother's generations also.

A strong beginning and middle with a slightly weakened ending, I enjoyed Chambers' observations on Appalachia and tribute to strong hill women.

"I still struggle with how to balance many delicate and competing concerns: talking about the problems Appalachia faces while highlighting its strengths; recognizing the importance of tradition while still supporting innovative change; encouraging community-driven solutions along with bringing outside resources to the region. I wish I had some more solid conclusions to share, but, in the end, it's the complexities of Appalachia and the people who live here that needs sharing most." *

I recommend Hill Women to readers who enjoy autobiography/memoir and an Appalachian setting.

Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains is scheduled for release on January 7, 2020.

*Quotes included are from a digital advanced reader's copy and are subject to change upon final publication.

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Mickey Knipp.
92 reviews4 followers
May 18, 2020
I thought this was going to be a book about life in the Appalachian Mountains and their way of life and what i got was a Democrat propaganda book on how every one who doesn't live in there should send money there and built some type of industry there. The author was ashamed of her family while she was growing up so she went to college and came back to help the poor a great calling. She also mentions she voted for Hillary Clinton because she was a woman not because she agreed with one policy MRS Clinton held but because she was a woman.
I wouldn't read this unless you looking for a book on how republicans are evil and democrats are going to save the world. I typically read to escape politics unless i read books that are honest up front that they are political .
February 21, 2020
Past. Present. Future… Those three things can seem like three completely different worlds in your life, can't they? And maintaining a connection between those three -- as much as you love and honor every single one of them -- It can be elusive at times. Especially as you're moving forward in your life and you want to achieve dreams that you have.

And even more… Especially if those dreams take you very, very far away from home.

“Hill Women” by Cassie Chambers is a wonderful book written by an Appalachian lawyer who earned two Ivy league degrees. And then, chose to return to her Eastern Kentucky home to set up shop.

Inspired by these strong hill women who raised her, she pays tribute to these women's stories and discovers a renewed connection to her own past... Also exemplifies a refreshingly new understanding of how to deal with today's divisive national politics... And completely breaks down the myth of what you might think the Appalachian culture is -- illuminating a very creative, very active community leadership often spearheaded by the women.


I must tell you that when I first looked at this book, I did not think I was going to like it. But I had committed to reading it. So I was determined to move forward… and I was really glad I did.

When I got into this book and started reading — my opinion really changed quite quickly to: I really like this book! Even more, I was actually really loving this book!

So why was it that my first impression was that I didn't think I was going to like this book? I really gave that some thought. And, I realized that I definitely had some predetermined opinions about what I thought the Appalachian community is.

But, what this book did to me very quickly is... This book took me — and my predetermined opinions — out to the woodshed and gave me a good ol’ Appalachian whoopin’! Because I absolutely loved this book!

And let me tell you why...


Hill Women by Cassie Chambers is written with a really pure, simple nuance, which is not an easy thing to do. To walk that microscopic line of skillful simplicity without the structure of the book becoming too amateurish -- and the structure of the book just falling all to pieces.

So, brava to Cassie Chambers!

Why is that important? Because that beautiful simple tone — it literally speaks perfectly to your heart. It builds a connection.

To bridge any chasm of disconnection, it can be quite effective to speak to each other in pure, simple language. Without any kind of pretension on top of that.

Why? Because it inspires trust. To speak purely. To speak authentically. To speak simply — is incredibly exposing. And that, my friends, really takes courage. It's courageous. It's authentic.

That courage to be authentic — It encourages you to drop your guard. It encourages you to stop defending your point of reference just for the sake of defending your point of reference. To really give yourself the opportunity to take in the experience that you're having.

Well, this writing style starts to work on you like a snake charmer! Where your own memories are drawn out as you follow the journey of the author. Although your experience may be far removed from the Appalachian mountains, you find yourself living the story through your own experience. Creating a common bond between your story and this community’s story.

Countless times as I was reading this book, my own personal memories would come up… just like a snake being lured up out of the basket by a snake charmer. Memories that I had not thought of in years. And what was even more amazing is that now I was embracing these memories from this new lens of understanding.

Isn't that what reading is all about?!

Finding that amazing book where the author does not say — “This is what you should think about this. Period.”

But actually just gives you this peek inside this window. Lets you watch the story unfold. And gives you room to actually discover something for yourself. From your own experience that you can relate to. Where the author actually trusts you to think for yourself…. Gadzooks! That's an idea!


When I first picked up this book, I admittedly had a predetermined opinion of whether I would even relate to this story. But what I found was…

• An absolute roadmap to help me connect my own experience of tradition while following my dreams in my life that actually do take me very far away from home.

• Some simple and really effective tools in creating connection in discussing and understanding different viewpoints.

• An assurance to be okay with just simply not having all the answers yet. Or perhaps never!

• And finally… The commitment to always honor those who came before me, who live within me and who will be influenced by me.

Past. Present. Future…

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers. Pick it up. You're going to love it.


All my reviews can be seen at This Is My Everybody | Denise Wilbanks | T.I.M.E. at www.thisismyeverybody.com ... Including my free resources for book club support, reading and DIY home ideas inspired by each recommended book to support you in bringing your favorite book to life in your life and home…

You can see my full review and resources for Hill Women by Cassie Chambers at https://www.thisismyeverybody.com/boo...

✨😎✨A big thank you to Cassie Chambers, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in my review are my own.
Profile Image for Karen.J..
212 reviews178 followers
May 19, 2023
⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Unfortunately I’m disappointed this story line did not capture my interest.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,735 reviews1,469 followers
March 18, 2021
Cassie Chambers writes of
-her East Kentucky Appalachian family ,
-the region’s extreme poverty and
-the strength and resilience of the Appalachian women.

The book focuses on Cassie’s life, up to the age of thirty-one when she marries, as well as the lives of her granny, her mother Wilma and her mother’s sister Aunt Ruth. These strong women played a huge role in shaping Cassie’s life and her personality. They urged Cassie to get an education. The value of education is the central message of the book. Education would be the means by which a better life could be achieved for Cassie personally and the people of Appalachia as a whole. Education will lead to an improvement in the area’s standard of living.

Cassie went to Wellesley, Yale and then Harvard Law School. Working as a Legal Aid attorney, she returned home to Kentucky to help those in dire need—particularly women and children.

Cassie’s life story is uplifting. She pays tribute to the women who helped her along the path toward improvement, toward success. She focuses her attention upon the innate strength and generosity of Appalachian women--their willingness to help each other. Lacking financial means, generosity has grown in its stead.

Cassie focuses on favorable role models. Had she so wished, I am sure she could have focused her attention instead upon the many who take dead end paths, struggle and fail.

The lack of transport and telecommunication facilities, health care and employment opportunities are spoken of. There is an abundant use of opioids, domestic violence, soil and water contamination and many pesticides—all of which urgently demand attention! The author does not whitewash the problems existing in Appalachia.

The author speaks of her growing political engagement and support of the Democratic Party.

The book closes with the death of , which will undoubtedly bring a tear to your eye. This is balanced with the knowledge that Cassie is .

Cassie Chambers narrates the audiobook very well. The narration is clear and easy to follow—so four stars for the narration. She speaks with both an Appalachian and East Coast accent--switching without hesitation between the two.

I like this book, which is why I have given it three stars. It shines a light on the good qualities of Appalachian women. The people of Appalachia are so often criticized, dragged in the mud. The book is in this way a change from the norm. I wouldn’t say there is much new information though.

My GR rating is a rating of the book, not the woman. Cassie Chambers is a truly praiseworthy and amazing woman.
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,270 reviews8 followers
June 4, 2020
3.75 stars

This is actually the type of non-fiction book that I don't usually enjoy. There is little to no conversation and everything is written in first person. I usually find that type book very boring and most often do not finish them.


I thoroughly enjoyed this trip with Cassie Chambers. She takes us from her childhood in the 'hollers' of Kentucky, up through her very formal education and life as a lawyer, on to her wedding and finally to her life in politics. Even without much conversation in this book, Cassie presented her life in an easily understood format, detailing her worries, her concerns, and her strengths.

It was easy to see that the women in her family were the depth of her strength. You learn about her Granny, her Aunt Ruth. her mother, Wilma and a few other relatives, like her cousin Melissa. Through each you encounter the similarities and the difference between them and Cassie. As you also begin to understand the differences that Cassie herself is going through. Her uncertainly of whether she still fits in to her 'down home hillbilly' roots, or whether she has progressed to the 'privileged upper class elite' that her education has provided for her.

This book is a window on to the world of one of the poorest counties in the US. It is filled with current events, the opioid crisis, fracking the mountains, domestic violence, and the recent shift in political views. A book well worth the read.
Profile Image for Karen R.
839 reviews495 followers
January 4, 2020
Cassie Chambers has led a rich and joyful life despite living in extreme poverty. Filling her days laboring in the tobacco fields, living in a particleboard farmhouse, yet she never felt deprived.
Cassie comes from a line of strong, independent and caring Appalachian mountain women who worked hard, took care of one another, their family and their neighbors. It is clear that Cassie is extremely appreciative of her inspirational ‘teachers’ and the values they taught such as the importance of education and generosity, building their lives around their children. An illuminating memoir incorporating moving generational family stories.I received an advanced copy of this book from Random House-Ballantine through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Tasha .
1,025 reviews37 followers
January 9, 2020
Not bad, just nothing all that exciting. I did enjoy learning more about what it was like growing up in the mountains of Kentucky, a very different life to mine so I always appreciate learning about how life is for others. Hearing about the justice system from the eyes and experiences of those from the area was generally interesting as well. In the later half of the book the author uses this platform to share her political beliefs which, unless I deliberately choose a book on politics, I'm not all that fond of reading.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House, Ballatine for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
5 reviews
April 18, 2020
Please note: Potential Spoilers!
I really, really wanted to enjoy this book. I enjoy supporting local authors and want to promote the array of talent the Commonwealth of Kentucky has to offer. BUT...as someone who was born and raised in Eastern KY, over a decade earlier than the author, I doubt some of the details of the story. I recognize her disclaimer that "that's how she remembers it," but it just doesn't ring true. Her parents lived in Berea, which is a mere 30 minutes (max) by Interstate 75 from Lexington (large city, home of UK, next county over from the state capital, you get the picture). Also noteworthy is the proximity to Richmond, which is mere minutes from Berea. Her upbringing doesn't seem to be as underprivileged as reported. I am from a small town that required two hours and two lane roads until the last 20 miles to get to Lexington, until about 10 years ago when they widened part of the road to four lanes. But the last 30 minutes travel back home is still two lanes. I'm making this comparison because the author tends to play on stereotypical sympathies of "just a poor KY girl who pulled herself up and made it in the big world of Ivy League schools."
She visited her family in the poorer county frequently, and clearly spent time there as a child. However, the true "Hill Women" part of the story lies with her mother and grandmother's story. If she had gone into greater depth of their struggles and why they chose their paths, it would have been a more enjoyable read. But honestly, talking about "granny frolics" as a commonality seemed disingenuous, simply because I'm older than she and had to go back an extra generation to my great -grandmother's notebooks to find mentions of women gathering at homes for childbirth. That said, even my Great-grandmother, a poor country girl, gave birth to my grandfather in 1936 in the little hospital in our county. The events and timeline seem incongruent with her age.
The author also gives little credit to her parents, who clearly worked VERY hard to provide for her, as she went off to her various schools. She actually attended school with a credit card from her parents in hand (for emergencies, such as a Burberry scarf), and goes into detail about how she felt peer pressure to buy high dollar fashion to fit in. But, bless her little heart, she bought some of it from Ebay and discount sites! She seems pleased that she came home all dressed up and felt like the odd one out at a family holiday. Yet she takes zero responsibility for the rift between her and her beloved cousin, who didn't have the same opportunities. Every person I know who has "left the holler" is acutely aware that clothes, mannerisms, speech, etc. will be dissected and discussed among relatives when they return for a visit. Yet, she seems confused that she felt overdressed in her expensive cashmere. But it was cute! It was trendy!
I could go on, but it will only sound harsh. I share the opinion of other reviewers that she expounds on the evils of the justice system a bit much, and she definitely derides our current POTUS while promoting and drooling over the Democratic Party. I, like others, suspect she has political ambitions. I finished the book, even though I wanted to stop, simply so I could leave a thorough review.
I found the short snippets about her mother interesting, that lady was the true success story and would have redeemed the novel. I feel that her mother truly worked for her education and had a great story to tell, but it's just skimmed over.
Honestly, the book is tone deaf to the amazing stories of survival she could've used from Hill women in Kentucky who thrived and didn't let life beat them down in the midst of economic poverty. It's tone deaf to the women who actually did pull theirselves out of squalor and went off to college on scholarship with $50 in their pocket and a suitcase full of ramen noodles. My opinion is just that, after all I'm just a poor Appalachian girl who went to a state school.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Erin.
323 reviews
September 28, 2019
Hill Women is a book chronicling the life of a young girl in Appalachia as she grows up. It tells her story and that of her family and friends, specifically the other strong women in her life

The description for this book appealed to me immediately, as I spent time many years ago in high school doing volunteer work repairing and rebuilding homes in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and West Virginia. It was a life changing experience and left me in love with and in awe of the people in the region, so I knew this book would be right up my alley.

While interesting, I found the very beginning of the book a bit hard to follow, as the timeline jumped around a bit, but once I got into this book, I absolutely could not put it down. The author did a fantastic job of describing the poverty and culture of the area in which she grew up, and the many problems they face, as well as the spirit of the people who live there.

This is a story of perseverance, family connections, bravery, and the drive to better yourself and make a difference in your area.

I highly recommend this book. The description is apt- it’s perfect for anyone who likes memoirs, and specifically, if you liked Hillbilly Elegy or Educated, you will definitely love this one.

Many thanks to Cassie Chambers, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley for the advanced digital copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Mama Cass.
72 reviews3 followers
December 2, 2019
Powerful, thought provoking and well written. I loved this memoir, love the strength of it all. A def must read. So glad Booklist sent it to me to review.
Profile Image for Susan.
309 reviews11 followers
December 27, 2019
Hill Women is a part biography, part autobiography, and part sociological look at the lives of a family and extended family in the deep hills of Kentucky Appalachia. It is eye-opening and fascinating, and the way the author weaves this all together is quite magical.

Cassie Chambers spent a lot of her youth with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the hills of Owsley County, among coal miners and tobacco farmers. Poverty was common, as was lack of much formal education. Cassie’s mother, Wilma, escaped this cycle and became the first woman in the family to graduate from college, from Berea College, and it’s in Berea that Cassie lived when she wasn’t with Granny and Papaw. Her parents instilled in her the thirst for knowledge, and through luck, determination, and grit, Cassie graduated from Yale and Harvard Law School. The stark, soul-searching insights of Ms. Chambers into her own perfectionism, of not quite fitting in in the elite, privileged world of the Ivy League, and her conflicts between being one of “them” or someone educated but always attached to her roots, make her story all the more powerful.

After she became a lawyer, she was drawn back to the rolling hills of Kentucky, and eventually found a job with Legal Aid, working with women much like her own family.

It’s hard to describe the truly magical nature of this book. Writing a memoir is hard enough, but adding the socio-political details in the form of data and statistics, not just anecdotes, makes this more than a memoir. And the stories of her family when she was a child are a virtual biography of her relatives. While at times the transition between themes felt a bit awkward, overall this is a wonderful, happy/sad/hardship/gritty story of several generations, with most of the generations staying where they were born.

Highly recommended.

I received this book as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley
Profile Image for Jill Dobbe.
Author 4 books114 followers
October 27, 2019
A fascinating read about growing up in the Appalachian hills where hard work, family and extreme poverty are the way of life. The author leaves her family and friends to pursue an education only to be drawn back to what she knows and carries in her heart. Hill Women takes readers into a part of the U.S. where the lives and culture is somewhat unknown and misunderstood.

Cassie Chambers found a way to pursue her dreams of education outside Kentucky. She attended Yale and Harvard and for awhile, lived a life very different from the one she left. However, with her degrees and law experience in hand, she returned to the mountains to do what she could to help better the lives of the low-income women who lived there. Throughout the book Chambers writes about the women she counsels and fights for in court. She also describes the three strong women in her own life and how much they influenced her--Aunt Ruth, her Granny and her mother.

Hill Women is an inspirational memoir about family values, perseverance, and hope, reminding readers of what is possible in life.

Thank you to the author, Ballantine Books and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this ARC.
Profile Image for Snooty1.
441 reviews8 followers
November 15, 2019
What an absolutely eye-opening memoir. Reading allows you to be privy to the lives of many different people and to learn about the lives of Hill Women was exciting and honestly a point a view I had never thought about.
Which is why I am so happy that Cassie Chambers represented herself and family with all the flaws and beauty of any normal family. It was a true pleasure to read.
Profile Image for Fonda B..
28 reviews2 followers
March 13, 2020
Why ruin a possible good story by bringing politics in it. Too much of that. Made me mad.
Profile Image for Colleen.
1,478 reviews44 followers
February 2, 2020
Cassie Chambers grew up in Owsley County in Kentucky, one of the poorest counties in state (and country). Even though she eventually managed to attend Yale and Harvard, she is one of the very few residents (and even fewer females) to leave the Appalachians and attend college. As a lawyer, she has returned “home” and devotes her time to providing legal aid to mostly female clients who have endured abuse, divorce, and/or custody battles... and often can barely afford to feed their families, never mind pay even basic court costs.

The book is a tribute to the strong Appalachian women who were role models in her life, particularly her grandmother, her aunt Ruth, and her mother (who was the first family member to graduate from college). Without the strength and support of these women, it is unlikely that Cassie would have accomplished what she has. Cassie describes what life in places like Cow Creek is really like, how the economy has suffered in recent years, the lack of social services to the area and the hardships these determined, strong people must endure in order to eke out an existence. She stresses the pride they feel for their families and their communities, despite the prejudice that they face from outsiders who think they’re nothing but a bunch of lazy “hillbillies”. She explains why there’s no easy answer to questions such as “Why don’t they just leave and find a job in the city?”

This is a bit like the book “Hillbilly Elegy”, but from a female perspective. She veers a little off course occasionally, but overall this is a heartfelt tribute to a community of strong, misunderstood women who are often neglected and ignored by larger society.
37 reviews10 followers
January 18, 2020
I won the book Hill Women by Cassie Chambers in a giveaway from Random House.
The book was ok. I was not overly impressed. The first part of the book was pretty good when the author spoke of her family and the things she learned from them. But I felt that the last half of the book went downhill and was flat. The facts about Kentucky were interesting but her political career was not. I wanted to like the book more than just ok but the second half of the book just did not work for me.
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