• Hill Women

  • Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains
  • By: Cassie Chambers
  • Narrated by: Cassie Chambers
  • Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (609 ratings)

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Hill Women  By  cover art

Hill Women

By: Cassie Chambers
Narrated by: Cassie Chambers
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Publisher's Summary

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.

"Destined to be compared to Hillbilly Elegy and Educated." (BookPage starred review)

"Poverty is enmeshed with pride in these stories of survival." (Associated Press)

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' 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 19 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.

©2020 Cassie Chambers (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Women in Kentucky’s Appalachian community come into focus in lawyer Chambers’s powerful debut memoir, which aims to put a human face on a stereotyped region.... This is a passionate memoir, one that honors Appalachia’s residents." (Publishers Weekly)

"A family memoir that celebrates the inspiration of strong women within a rural culture most often characterized as patriarchal... [Chambers tells] stories that illuminate the hardworking spirit and flashes of hope among the populace, the women in particular." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Hill Women is a gritty, warm love letter to Appalachian communities and the resourceful womenwho lead them.... [It] feels especially urgent now, in our post-2016, post - Hillbilly ElegyAmerica. In a sense, Chambers is responding to the ‘bootstraps’ narrative of J. D. Vance’s controversial memoir, which has been criticized for blaming Appalachians for their own circumstances. Hill Women shows an Appalachia that Hillbilly Elegy obscured.” (Slate)

What listeners say about Hill Women

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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Too Political

This was shaping up to be a 5-star read of a hillbilly girl from eastern KY who made it through Harvard Law School (sound familiar?), until her considerable section disparaging Donald Trump. Sure, this is a memoir and the author became heavily involved in politics in the Democratic Party. Her views are a legitimate part of the book, even if it spills over into her relatives' views, and the opinions of people in her state. Too bad. I can get negativity from the news channels. I was just looking for a non-political memoir.

70 people found this helpful

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A Good Read

Inspirational throughout. Appreciated the family loyalty. ‘Twas a shame the author felt compelled to include current politics. Nothing wrong with party affiliation but the anti President Trump comments seemed bitter.

42 people found this helpful

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Good story but too political.

The story starts out great. She has had a great journey; definitely overcame some hurdles. I enjoyed the characters as I can relate since my mom comes from coal country and her family members are much the same.
I did not enjoy the political views. I am not a political person but she sits and criticizes the President for not going in and fixing E. Kentucky but then at the end states she doesn’t know what needs to be done to help the region yet she lives it and works in it daily.

She is incorrect about a few things about the Affordable Care Act and a few other laws and says them in a way to further her political views. Sounds like she will be a politician herself.
Overall it was worth reading. I just wish it were were more honest and less to push political agenda.

34 people found this helpful

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Too political

I thought I was getting away from politics for a while by listening to a good book. Not true!! I have to admit I did not read reviews like I should have. My fault!

31 people found this helpful

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Too political near the end

While anyone writing a book certainly has the right to include their political views, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Not because I disagree with her views, but because this story would have been so much better without veering into politics. I am a Hill Woman from Central WV. My family was/is very similar to the authors. These mountains make us tough, resourceful, and more resilient than folks realize. A great story, told with respect for all.

29 people found this helpful

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Fabulous memoir

As a daughter of Appalachia who has been misplaced in the mountains of Colorado instead of back home in the Western NC mountains, I love the author's ability to recognize both the strengths and weaknesses of being from the hills. A million times better representation of these dear people than that other book which discussed the hillbilly tale of woe. Thank you for shining a light. i have made this recommended reading for my book club.

12 people found this helpful

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The shoulders upon which we stood..they lifted us up!

I choose to read this book because my family comes from Appalachia and I know Hill Women. I have seen their struggle, their grit, their strength, their fire and felt their love..still feel it today. I am deeply grateful that I came from that subculture. It made me very strong! When I finished my dissertation for my PhD, I dedicated it to my mother because it was her shoulders upon which I stood. She lifted me up!

12 people found this helpful

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As a woman of the foothills...

As a woman of the foothills of Appalachia, this book spoke to some of the deepest parts of my heart and soul. This will forever be one of my most favorite books!! I wish everyone who wants to know anything about Appalachia would read it! I cannot put all of my love for this story into words. Wow!

9 people found this helpful

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not quite what I was expecting

Ultimately, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I found the stories about the women the author represented in court to be the most memorable part of the book, and I think it was those stories I was expecting the narrative to center on.

While having the author read her own work lent an honest quality, to keep the story moving forward it might have been better to have a voice talent who understands how to color vocal timbre and vary pacing. The author's articulation was clear and easy to understand, and over all the performance was well directed, but a professional would deliver more variety for the listener and help keep the listener from dropping out in the slower sections.

9 people found this helpful

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Berea, Kentucky had an International College!

Well done, Miss Chambers. Reminded me that people will live where they are included and loved even in the worst circumstances. I read this in one sitting and cried several times. Tugged at my heart.

8 people found this helpful