An Amazon Best Book of March 2016: “What is it about Appalachia that so captures the mind, echoes in the ear, and lodges in the heart?” Lee Smith’s memoir metes out the answer to that question, touching on the elusive substance of Southern culture which so fascinates those of us outside of it and has inspired an entire subgenre of writing. Some of her essays ring with the raucous sounds of bluegrass, others with the sweet smells of home cooking passed down through generations–but Smith also bucks small town propriety by exposing the mental illness that plagued her family and by describing her sometimes fraught journey to becoming a beloved novelist. Dimestore is a love letter to the people and places that made a writer out of a small town Southern girl, and to the love, heartbreak, and power of creating her own stories that came after. –Seira Wilson
For the inimitable Lee Smith, place is paramount. For forty-five years, her fiction has lived and breathed with the rhythms and people of the Appalachian South. But never before has she written her own story.
Set deep in the mountains of Virginia, the Grundy of Lee Smith’s youth was a place of coal miners, tent revivals, mountain music, drive-in theaters, and her daddy’s dimestore. It was in that dimestore–listening to customers and inventing adventures for the store’s dolls–that she became a storyteller. Even when she was sent off to college to earn some “culture,” she understood that perhaps the richest culture she might ever know was the one she was driving away from–and it’s a place that she never left behind.
Dimestore’s fifteen essays are crushingly honest, wise and perceptive, and superbly entertaining. Smith has created both a moving personal portrait and a testament to embracing one’s heritage. It’s also an inspiring story of the birth of a writer and a poignant look at a way of life that has all but vanished.
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