Describing the Appalachian region can be an extremely daunting task. Its mountainous borders are mythical. Its people are geographically, economically, and culturally isolated from the rest of our country. Its cultural attitudes have long been falsely defined by outsiders. More often than not, scholars are able to obtain only a small faction of Appalachia’s cultural mindset. This is not the case with Katherine Kelleher Sohn. In Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia Sohn paints a vivid portrait of the Appalachian region and its people. Sohn’s exceptional study explores America’s stereotypical perception of Appalachian men and women along with the gender roles created by their traditional set of cultural values. Sohn’s study also examines how these feelings of resentment, which are passed down through generations, blatantly discourage the pursuit of higher education. If not for her autobiographical accounts, one might suspect Sohn was a born-and-raised Appalachian native. Sohn’s descriptions of the Appalachian region and its people brought me back to my childhood in the mountains of West Virginia. I can say with confidence that Sohn’s work accurately represents both the region and the cultural attitudes of Appalachia. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in literacy studies, gender studies, or Appalachian culture.
Todd D. Snyder