She Come By It Natural
Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs
In this Time Top 100 Book of the Year, the National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Heartland “analyzes how Dolly Parton’s songs—and success—have embodied feminism for working-class women” (People).
Growing up amid Kansas wheat fields and airplane factories, Sarah Smarsh witnessed firsthand the particular vulnerabilities—and strengths—of women in working poverty. Meanwhile, country songs by female artists played in the background, telling powerful stories about life, men, hard times, and surviving. In her family, she writes, “country music was foremost a language among women. It’s how we talked to each other in a place where feelings aren’t discussed.” And no one provided that language better than Dolly Parton.
In this “tribute to the woman who continues to demonstrate that feminism comes in coats of many colors,” Smarsh tells readers how Parton’s songs have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” Parton’s broader career—from singing on the front porch of her family’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains to achieving stardom in Nashville and Hollywood, from “girl singer” managed by powerful men to self-made mogul of business and philanthropy—offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture.
Infused with Smarsh’s trademark insight, intelligence, and humanity, this is “an ambitious book” (The New Republic) about the icon Dolly Parton and an “in-depth examination into gender and class and what it means to be a woman and a working-class hero that feels particularly important right now” (Refinery29).