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Biography Review    

 

 

Songs of Life and Grace
by Linda Scott DeRosier
University of Kentucky Press, 2003
Hardcover, $26.00  (228 pages)
ISBN: 0-8131-2276-7
 
 
After the success of her first memoir Creeker, everyone wanted for Linda DeRosier to write a book on the Kentucky coal miners. She was happy with the idea, since she perceived it would be less an emotional drain than writing Creeker had been.  But "life" has a way of directing one to personal growth; so Linda DeRosier found her research journey change from a simple history of coal mining to the complex history of a family who "step by step" worked each generation away from working below and above the land -- it is songs of her parents and those before them....Songs of Life and Grace.

Children know only one side of their parents.  It is through stories from family and friends that they get to learn about their parent as a child, testing the waters as a young adult, and the things most parents hide from their children.  The fun things. The things that made their parents say, "I hope you have one just like you."

One of the first clues that DeRosier had that there was more to her parents then she knew, came in 1979 while she was serving as the first director of the Institute for Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University. After a program for the Knoxville Historical Society, an older gentleman came up an inquired if she was the daughter of Grace Mollette. He told her of a cherished memory of young Grace, and pulled from his wallet a picture of her, which he gave to Linda DeRosier. Now, you have to acknowledge that it takes a special woman to hold a cherished place in a man's memory for decades.  When shown the picture and asked about the gentleman, the older Grace Mollette didn't remember him. However, I suspect that was the "mother" talking, and that the part that Grace kept private remembered.

Grace Mollette was a vivacious, young women with ambitions of the world beyond the coal fields. But that dream changed when she lost her heart to Lifie Jay Preston. While Grace was refined and held to fashion to the point of not letting herself go after marriage, Lifie was often crude without being vulgar in speech and full of energy. Both were hard workers and filled their home with laughter.

DeRosier also shares the songs of their last years, when age takes its toil on the body. But even then there is much to learn from their love, dedication and inner strength. The bonds of family are explored and celebrated as part of the Southern tradition.

Linda Scott DeRosier once again shares her family story and at the same time captures the songs of others of that generation and place. Through her appreciation of their ballads, she shares life lessons we all can follow.

Linda Scott DeRosier is one of the gems to come out of the coal mining hills -- a true Kentucky treasure.

 
 
Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

 

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