‘Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia’ explores college journey

Monday, April 17, 2006

PIKEVILLE, Ky. – The old saying goes “whistlin’ women and crowin’ hens always come to no good ends.”  Sometimes, the wisdom of an old adage doesn’t always hold true as Dr. Katherine Kelleher Sohn reveals in her new book Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia: Literacy Practices Since College.

The community is cordially invited to a reception and reading on Tuesday, April 4, to celebrate the release of Sohn’s book. The reception is being sponsored by the Pikeville College Alumni Association and will be held at 6 p.m. in the Sturgill Board Room, located in Record Memorial Building, third floor.

Sohn, an assistant professor of English at Pikeville College, began researching literacy in Appalachia several years ago as part of her doctoral work. Her research, which includes interviews with eight women graduates on their reading and writing experiences during and after college, evolved into a book based on her 1999 dissertation of the same title. The book focuses on three women in particular, but information from all the participants can be found throughout the book.

“My primary purpose in conducting this research was to determine how going to college had changed the literacy habits of former non-traditional, working-class women and to ascertain how they were using literacy in the workplace, home, and community,” Sohn said.

Her work gives voice to Jean, Lucy and Sarah (pseudonyms) – the first generation of women in their families to attend college – who share personal and poignant stories of the challenges they faced in pursuit of their dreams.

 “These whistlin’ and crowin’ women taught me about coming to voice through college literacy,” Sohn said. “Though these women reside in Appalachia, their stories resonate with women like them across the nation who are isolated economically, societally, geographically, and culturally, yet who manage to surmount obstacles to become self-fulfilled. Building on their survival skills, their education offered them personal growth, job advancement, and social empowerment, making life better for them and thus enriching the Appalachian region.”

In the book, and also at the reception, Sohn will express her appreciation to the women for their significant gift of time and trust, and for their courage. She also hopes her research will provide insight to others.

“It changed my teaching in countless ways,” said Sohn. “Their whistlin’ and crowin’ voices might awaken other educators, as they did me, to the value, dignity, and worthiness of all students in the classroom.”

Sohn’s book is published by Southern Illinois University Press, as part of the Studies in Writing and Rhetoric series.  Whistlin’ and Crowin’ Women of Appalachia: Literacy Practices Since College is available in major bookstores and at www.amazon.com. Books may be purchased and will be signed by the author immediately following the reception.

For more information on the April 4 reception, contact the Office of Public Affairs at Pikeville College at (606) 218-5265.

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