Journalist Sarah Smarsh offers hard-won insights into Dolly Parton’s life and legacy.
On this week’s episode, sponsored in part by Abrams Books for Young Readers, Sarah Smarsh discusses She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs (Scribner, Oct. 13), an in-depth evaluation of Dolly Parton’s songwriting, philanthropy, and evolving role in the popular imagination.
Smarsh, an award-winning author, journalist, scholar, and fifth-generation Kansan, is known for exploring socioeconomic class, poverty, and politics through personal experience, family lore, and scholarship. (Her nonfiction debut, Heartland: A Daughter of the Working Class Reconciles an American Divide, was a Kirkus Prize finalist in 2018.)
She Come By It Natural collects a series of essays, written in 2017 for the roots music journal No Depression, that chart Parton’s meteoric rise through the ranks of country music; her mid-career stride as a savvy businesswoman who knew how to beat detractors to their own punchline; and ascension to an international icon whose appeal transcends race, class, and creed. Through Parton may never call herself a “feminist,” Smarsh argues, her songs chronicle working-class American lives in a way that defies stereotypes and empowers women.
From our review: “A highly readable treat for music and feminist scholars as well as Parton's legion of fans.”
Smarsh and host Megan Labrise discuss her proudest insight from the book; whether she had a particular thesis when she began writing; her recent projects; Parton’s unlabeled feminism; and Parton’s role of Dr. Shirlee Kenyon in the movie Straight Talk.
Then editors Vicky Smith, Laura Simeon, and Eric Liebetrau join with their reading recommendations for the week.
All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat (Candlewick)
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen (Random House Graphic)
Dolly Parton Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann (Chronicle Books)
Also mentioned in this episode:
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.