A book about family, heritage and legacies in Appalachia: Bloodroot

I just finished Amy Greene’s “Bloodroot” which traced the lives of families in Appalachia, specifically on Bloodroot Mountain, which I think is supposed to be in Tennessee.  The stories are told from the perspective of various generations, and it was a little hard for me to catch on and get engaged in the first small section.  What kept me reading was the descriptions of the flora and fauna of Bloodroot Mountain, and pretty soon into the book, the lives of twins, a brother and sister.   The last section of the book ties together the entire story beautifully, if not hauntingly.

During my elementary school years, I attended a rural school with many poor children who were living in rusty trailers, decrepit houses, and in some cases, shacks.   This book did not focus on children being cruel, but there was an underlying awareness that the children in the book felt like they didn’t belong, they were alone.  Their families meant everything to them, they counted on their neighbors and had a loyalty to the land they grew up on.

It’s easy to poke fun at “trailer trash” or someone with rotting “hillbilly” teeth or old, ill-fitting clothes.   But these people are people, too- people with feelings trying to raise their children, make a living, and in some cases- survive.   The book gave me an overwhelming sense of empathy and understanding of these children that I knew, but from a distance.

DSS social workers played a part in the book, and I looked at them as these teenage mothers did- as people to fear- because a lack of money and education and the “proper” means of communicating could mean your baby could be taken away.  It made me ashamed to think that when I see a “redneck” or mother from the projects in court on TV that I automatically think she is guilty, and now understand a bit about the look of defiance that they wear.

In this book, there was a special relationship between a granddaughter and grandmother.  The granddaughter would daydream about what her grandmother was doing when they were separated.  This relationship in the book inspired me to daydream about some happy memories of my late grandmother:  fishing, making pancakes, playing dominoes with me and planting petunias.

It also made me want to remember where I came from, which was a long way from Bloodroot Mountain in some ways, but not in others. 

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