Though Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia:  Literacy Development since College is an academic study, it has messages for all women, especially for a book group selection. These questions serve as possible guidelines for reading and discussing the book. Members might pass over the methodology section (pages 9-21) but should not miss the portraits (21-29) or Chapter 2. The case studies, Chapters 3, 4, and 5, the stories of Lucy, Jean, and Sarah, are the heart and soul of this book, for they illustrate the importance of education in these women’s lives. The conclusion has some valuable information as well though some of the recommendations speak mainly to writing teachers and administrators.


1.  What are your stereotypes of Appalachia and how did you formulate these ideas? After reading this book, have your images changed? In what ways?


2.  Though situated in Appalachia, the stories of these women are universal. Share stories similar to these of your own education or of some person or group who has improved themselves with education.


3.  Before this book, were you familiar with the aphorism, “whistlin’ women and crowin’ hens always come to no good ends”? How does Sohn reverse the saying in this book?


4.  On pages 48-65, Sohn contrasts the central Appalachian region to Baltimore, MD. What differences do you see between the Appalachian region and the place where you currently live?  Place you grew up?  What have you learned as a result?


5.  How do the stories of Sohn’s nontraditional college students parallel her own education? How are they different? 


6.  Do you agree that women have been and are the educators of the next generation? How have you seen that work out in your own family, both the one you were raised in and your own children?


7.  Do you agree or disagree with Sohn about prejudice based on dialect and class?  Who are the “hillbillies” in your region of the country?


8.  How does Sohn contrast the feminist movement with these women’s struggles? (pp. 158-160) How has the feminist movement affected you?


9.  What personal traits are exhibited in the essays written by these women (in the appendices)?  How do these essays compare with student writers you are familiar with?


10.  What examples of courage stood out for you in the case studies of Lucy, Jean, and Sarah in Chapters 3, 4, and 5?


11.  In the conclusion, Sohn speaks about fear.  How has fear prevented you from doing what you want to? How have you overcome it?


For feedback and further questions, please contact:


Katherine (Kathy) Kelleher Sohn

119 Honeysuckle Drive

Pikeville, KY 41501

606.437.6467 (home)

606.434.4921 (cell)


For the academic year 2006-7, please use my cell phone or email to contact me.