Wednesday, January 9, 2013

An Appalachian Childhood: Book Review

An Appalachian Childhood by Deany Brady.

This book was recommended by a friend: "A book that you must read, especially if you like real stories about real people." When I first heard this book was written about growing up in Ellijay, Georgia (my hometown 15 miles away), I was hoping to recognize some local landmarks. But I was completely surprised by what I found. Did she really say Burnt Mountain Road?  Yes, the road where I live, the once dirt road that I have traveled many times, apparently in the virtual footsteps of this author.

I followed Ms. Brady's story with delight, along the banks of Turkey Creek (it runs through our property), to Oakland Elementary School (my kids and grandkids went there), up the mountain to Tate Mountain Estates. I discovered the reason this is called Burnt Mountain (and no, it is not because Buddy accidentally set fire to the woods a while back).

The collected stories describe a life of hard work on the farm, a life of survival, a life filled with chores, real ones like hoeing the garden or milking the cows. A life filled with love and family, back when generations lived together, grandparents, parents, children, all under the same roof, in a 2 or 3 room house. They would help each other and learn from each other, each generation contributing, passing down life skills and traditions and of course stories.

I was immediately transported back in time, smelling Grandma's cornbread, seeing the March flowers blooming, feeling the red Georgia dirt beneath my bare feet and the cold mountain creek water, hearing the katydids and whippoorwills, picking wild Yates apples, breaking beans on the porch for a day of canning, tasting sweet homemade jelly on hot biscuits, walking down that dusty road to catch the school bus. I could read the writing on the wall, literally newspapers covered the walls of the house.

Remembering, telling, capturing, and preserving family stories is so important, once those folks are gone their stories go with them unless they are put down like they are here by Ms. Brady. She tells stories not only of her own experiences, but stories she remembers passed down from her grandparents, great grandparents, great-great grandparents, like the one about the Civil War and the roastneers. She has created a legacy that her family will cherish for many generations.

These stories will be enjoyed by anyone who reads this book, maybe it will spark a memory of their own childhood long ago. But for a handful of folks who know and live here, this book is a great gift, to see the Burnt Mountain area of the past through this storyteller's eyes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir, and am eagerly awaiting the second half to be published.

Deany Brady, author


Debbie Jones said...

Wow, this sounds like such an interesting book!

Linda J said...

I just finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it, Susan. What an interesting life Ms. Brady has led! To think that it all began right in your neck of the woods too. THX!