"My family lived as far back in the hollers as it was possible to go in Bell County, Kentucky. Dad worked in the timber woods and at a sawmill, when there was employment to be found. We ate what we grew on the place or could glean from the hillsides. Just about everything was made by hand. We had little contact with people outside the region." Sidney Saylor Farr grew up in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, the eldest of ten children.
Her devotion to her family led her to accept heavy responsibilities from a very young age: at three, she remembers being put in charge of her baby sister while her parents worked in the corn field. At the age of twelve, Farr was forced to leave school to care for her ailing mother and younger siblings. Although she did not often have time to pursue her own goals, life in the mountains nourished and shaped Farr and the writer she would become. Her great-grandmother was a master storyteller, and stories passed down from generation to generation helped define her family history and fueled her imagination. Her Aunt Dellie, a voracious reader, received discarded books from the Pineville library, and as she shared these volumes with young Sidney, she opened the world to her eager niece.
Farr's intense determination compelled her to find her own path and gave her the strength to become one of the most influential figures in Appalachian letters, nurturing other young writers who wanted to document the region's particular way of life. Although living in Appalachia was difficult—many people of Farr's generation left the mountains for good—she persisted through countless challenges, including poverty, discrimination, and personal loss. Farr managed to thrive despite these adversities, educating herself, raising two sons, and becoming a voice for her family, community, and culture.
In My Appalachia, Farr shares the stories of her struggles and triumphs to create a vivid picture of a culture as enduring as the mountains. Composed of a rich mix of folklore, family history, and spiritual and intellectual exploration, Farr's deft and gentle storytelling reveals the beauty of life in Appalachia.
Winner of the Appalachian Book of the Year Award.
"Sidney Saylor Farr is one of the godmothers of Appalachian literature, with a unique understanding of the place and its people. She has remarkable stories to tell and I, for one, am anxious to hear them." —Silas House
"A good memoir offers impressive candor and surprises, and Sidney Saylor Farr's book delivers both." —Sandra L. Ballard
"Farr has consistently made important contributions to Appalachian and American literature. Her poems, stories, essays and other writings have revealed her beautiful voice and unique sensibility as a woman, an Appalachian woman, to thousands of readers." —Gurney Norman
"Sidney Saylor Farr's My Appalachia is a memoir whose attractive modesty cannot hide its profound love of place, affection for people, and accuracy of detail. It is as redolent with time and memory as a long-used smokehouse, yet fresh and lucid as a cold spring water ringed with mossy rocks. Anyone who wishes to know mountain life." —Fred Chappell, author of I Am One of You Forever
"The weight of Farr's family burdens is matched by a spirit determined to flourish in this inspiring memoir." —George Ella Lyon, author of With a Hammer for My Heart
"Farr has consistently made important contributions to Appalachian and American literature. Her poems, stories, essays and other writings have revealed her beautiful voice and unique sensibility as a woman, an Appalachian woman, to thousands of readers." —Gurney Norman, author of Kinfolks: The Wilgus Stories
"Sidney Saylor Farr's My Appalachia is a moving and inspirational account of her most fascinating life. Though her narrative begins and ends in Appalachia, the path she has traveled is like no other and she seems to have walked it without one hint of the everyday ennui so much a part of modern life. " —Linda DeRosier, author of Creeker: A Woman's Journey
"Without fail I found in Sidney the very embodiment of those essential qualities that humanize scholarship, editing and writing, what Jim Wayne Miller called a 'felt linkage' with the land or her birth, her commitment to excellence, a spirit of cooperation, and an abiding sense of humor. In this book we will see, I am sure, that all of these traits of character were homegrown." —Robert J. Higgs, coeditor of Appalachia Inside Out
"A good memoir offers impressive candor and surprises, and Sidney Saylor Farr's book delivers both." —Sandra L. Ballard, editor of Appalachian Journal and Listen Here: Women Writi
"Sidney Saylor Farr writes of her life in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with deep affection and unflinching candor.... My Appalachia is both one person's extraordinary life story and a first-hand look at life in the mountains in a time that is fading from memory."~Kentucky Monthly
"The gift of this book is that Farr's pride in her roots and her ability to tell a story shine though. It's easy to understand why her work has won her repeatedrecognition for contributions to the body of Appalachian literature."~Charleston Post and Courier
"Sandra Ballard's understatement, 'A good memoir offers impressive candor and surprises, and Sidney Saylor Farr's book delivers both," offers a meaningful start to describing a book full of revelations that may leave you gasping."~Appalachian Heritage
"Removed from romantic and stereotyped portrayals of southern Appalachia, Farr's story is recommended for public and academic libraries with a strong interest in the region, as well as for readers who want to learn more about overcoming adversity."~Angela Leeper, MCREVIEW.com
"Illustrative and poignant.... Farr describes details of old ways of farming and gathering that will be new to many readers."~West Virginia History
- Appalachian Book of the Year for Non-fiction