The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is such a beautiful look at a little-known piece of history. Perhaps you know about this, but I had never heard about the Kentucky Fugates or The Pack Horse Library Project. And they are both important pieces of American history.
The Fugates were blue-skinned people who had an extremely rare disease, Methemoglobinemia. As a result of an enzyme deficiency, Congenital Methemoglobinemia caused them to have higher than normal levels of methemoglobin in their blood which reduced oxygen capacity. This resulted in their skin literally looking blue. These were real people and a real part of history – and their treatment in the story (and undoubtedly in real life) was an incredible look at racism and baseless hatred.
In addition, in 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt established The Pack Horse Library Project as part of his Works Progress Administration (WPA). This was an effort to create jobs for women and also to bring books to people in the poorest areas of Appalachia where there were almost no schools, no libraries and very few roads.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek combines these two historical events, creating the character of 19 year old Cussy Mary Carter. Cussy is a blue and is also employed to deliver books in the poorest, most depressed areas of Kentucky. The story focuses on her life, the way she is treated by others, and the joy that she brings to the most downtrodden of society through books.
It’s a gem.