Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Review: Strong Survival

Title: Strong Survival

Author: Cliffie Strong

Date: 2004

Publisher: Christian Appalachian Project

ISBN: none

Length: 100 pages plus donation forms

Illustrations: black and white photos

Quote: “My name is Cliffie Strong and I am 88 years of age…I have survived many hard times.”

She says, while readers want to give her more of a hard time. “Cliffie” is one of the most classic preppy-girl nicknames, referring of course to Radcliffe, which in Cliffie Strong’s case seems like sarcasm. Having “learned all that” the local public “school could teach” at seventeen, she married at eighteen and had three children at twenty-four.

And oh, she was poor, everybody around her home was so-o-o poor, they could hardly survi-i-ive. They all owned land. They were all natural-born citizens of the United States, with the right to travel and find jobs that paid better than farming their land. They were poor, just like incontinent young people in other parts of the country, because they had too many babies. They had the ability to say “no,” just like other young people who wanted their work to be a spiritual practice rather than a mild form of slavery. They didn’t want to think about that, though, and they were so-o-o grateful for the “angels” of the Catholic “Christian Appalachian Project,” who didn’t remind them of it.

Well…to each his or her own. Stereotypes don’t form out of thin air, and Strong has chosen to present herself as one of the most durable stereotypes of the twentieth century, the Barely Literate Hillbilly On the Take. A few of them really did exist, and if you’re from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, or for that matter Ohio or Pennsylvania, you can give thanks that this specimen was from Kentucky.

Alternatively, of course, if you live with teenagers you can use this book in the classic way literate hillbillies always used this kind of story—showing it to teenagers as an explanation of why you want them to laugh off any experience of Teen Romance they may have, and focus on qualifying for decent jobs, even if they inherit land and live on it. Flatlanders in their ignorance often think people like Strong were typical of all mountain people. They weren’t. They were typical of the ones others pointed out as bad examples.

In between writing and posting this review, I sold the copy of this book I physically owned, but as an Amazon Associate I can resell it to anyone who wants to buy it here. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to support this web site, because the price of used copies on Amazon is so low! For processing any book sale we have to charge $5 per copy, plus $5 per package shipped, plus $1 per online payment (the Post Office collect their own surcharge for real-world payments).