This book hurt and made me smile. It expertly exposes the idiocy of superiority based on the ambiguous idea of race, or skin color. The main character, Cussy, is a blue-colored human with methemoglobinemia. She is systematically discriminated against and abused in her small Kentucky town, Troublesome, supposedly because her skin color is rare. However, when she temporarily oxygenates her blood and becomes white, no one changes their cruelty toward her. The people who loved her before, love her still, and the people who hated her before, hate her still. Perhaps, their behavior and their laws have nothing to do with her or what color she is.
People who justify their cruelty and hatred toward another, who prey upon differences as if they are weaknesses, are not being cruel because of blue skin or black skin, they’re hateful because their experiences have taught them to be afraid, to not question the system that supports them, to think that power comes from division and standing on the necks of those who don’t follow the rules. Education is the liberation of this.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story about book carriers, or Book Women, and explores the Kentucky hills of the 1930s just like The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. The oppression of women, the abuse of mineworkers, the laws and violence based on racism, the horrors of poverty, and the desperate hunger for books in both of the historical novels hurt and made me smile. I smile because of the goodness that pervades in the courageous people willing to defy the system. I smile because of the hope and change books brought to the isolated, suffering people of the hills. And I smile because the world was changing; women riding horses into the woods “like men” with bags full of books busting with stories and ideas, was just the beginning.
Thank you Kim Michele Richardson. (My middle name is also Michele, spelled with just one “l”). You gave me a love story, a story of books, and a story of bold women who gave me the world.