I reviewed this book for my college newspaper when it came out in 1963. At that time it was the definitive attempt to explain how Appalachia got to be the way it is. It still is! This book is on everyone's list of the ten, five, three . . . books to read about our region. It is somewhat controversial. Harry Caudill (1922-1990) is more a straight-shooter than an Appalachian chauvinist, and the easiest way to piss somebody off is to tell the truth on them. He does veer off onto some shaky ground briefly. Of course people from families who stayed in the region are going to be offended by his "brain drain" comments, for example. And he was more of a "big picture" man than a "details" person. For example he once sent me a post card - addressed simply to "George Brosi, Bookseller, Berea, Kentucky" - inquiring if I had a copy of the new book, "Civilizing the Hillbilly." He meant David Whisnant's Modernizing the Mountaineer. But this book as a whole clearly stands as an important and lasting contribution. Harry Caudill's people settled in Eastern Kentucky generations before him, and Harry was a lawyer in Whitesburg and a representative to the state legislature. I have never met a more chivalrous person in my whole life. If a woman entered the room, he stood up! And I believe he ended his life when he could no longer contribute and felt he was a burden as his last act of chivalry for his wife, Anne, and his kids. He carried shrapnel painfully in his body throughout his life that he had picked up fighting the fascists in Italy during World War II. His other books also deserve attention. Theirs Be the Power details the corporate take-over of Eastern Kentucky, and it is where I learned that FDR actually spent time in the Harlan County Courthouse to secure mineral rights for his family's interests, My Land Is Dying is his polemic against strip-mining. At Harry Caudill's funeral, former Governor Bert Combs and poet Wendell Berry were among those who gave moving eulogies.
Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundation, a 2001 reprint of a 1963 release. 404 pages. Trade paperback.