Jean Ritchie

Often, I don't comment on my work-related reading because I don't want to alienate people who just are not that into Appalachian Political Economy or Rhetoric & Composition Theory or whatever rabbit trail I might find myself bouncing down.  But occasionally, I find my academic reading and my personal reading so well-entwined that I must share.  And though checking out ANOTHER library book when I'm supposed to be reading down my TBR shelves is not so much in the helpful department, I couldn't resist Jean Ritchie's Singing Family of the Cumberlands.  Ritchie is an amazing folk singer from Kentucky, an activist and act-upper from way back.  If you want to know more, feel free to wikipedia to your heart's content.  Suffice it to say that her musical and political legacy is long and sweet.  Here she is singing one of her most famous songs.  And though her voice is poignant, it is her memoir that has me the most captivated.  It doesn't hurt that Maurice Sendak has provided small sketches to illustrate the memoir.  Or that this description of the mountains comes in the first chapter:
To stand in the bottom of any of the valleys is to have the feeling of being down in the center of a great round cup.  To stand on top of one of the narrow ridges is like balancing on one of the innermost petals of a gigantic rose, from which you can see all around you the other petals falling away in wide rings to the horizon.  Travelers from the level lands, usually the Blue Grass section of Kentucky to the west of us, always complained that they felt hemmed in by our hills, cut off from the wide skies and the rest of the world.  For us it was hard to believe there was any 'rest of the world,' and if there should be such a thing, why, we trusted in the mountains to protect us from it. (5-6)
Love this beautiful and oh-so-true talk about what it means to be in and from and of the mountains.  And looking forward to what else she has to say in this wonderful story of a life.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds super interesting. Thanks for posting. I love being introduced to new folk singers, although it sounds like she is so much more than that. Can't wait to track down this book.