Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reflections on a hillbilly upbringing

I just came across a newspaper clipping a friend sent me about 18 mos. ago. It is about Helen Gurley Brown's (then) new autobiography, Bad Girls Go Everywhere. The book review, from the New York Times, notes that Brown was
born in Green Forest, Arkansas, a tiny town in the Ozark Mountains. Her father died when she was 10; her sister had polio, her family was "hillbilly," she wrote, and poor. Once she got out, she looked back only by force of will. She liked to quote a line from Carson McCullers: 'I must go home periodically to renew my sense of horror.'
The review goes on to comment that Brown's background "allowed her to speak effortlessly, later in her life, to the fears and aspirations of America's often ignored working class women." I admit that this is not exactly how I see Brown--as concerned or "in touch" with working class women.

I also admit that I don't see my "hillbilly" upbringing in the same way she sees hers. My hometown, Jasper, is less than 50 miles from Green Forest, population 2,717, and I know the town well because we played against Green Forest in sports when I was in high school. But my recollections of the Ozarks have, apparently unlike Brown's, softened over the years. What may once have been something akin to horror when I reflected on my hometown has evolved into something quite nostalgic--much more understanding and compassionate.

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