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New at Peter White Public Library

Last year, during the quarantine, I read that Dolly Parton donated $1 million for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. It was just one more reason to love this extraordinary woman.

Epic songwriter, beloved singer and performer, philanthropist, and a voice for poor, working-class women everywhere, Dolly Parton is adored by legions of diverse fans. She is beloved for her generosity as well as her talent. Her literacy program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, is currently providing books to almost 850,000 children. When her childhood home of Sevier County was hit hard by wildfires, the Dollywood Foundation donated $1,000 per month to families who had lost their homes, as well as college scholarships to students affected by the fires. And these are just a few examples of her generosity!

Some people may still overlook her many accomplishments and focus instead on her over-the-top, trademark appearance, but that is their mistake — Parton’s life, from an impoverished childhood in a Tennessee holler to Nashville and Hollywood stardom and a business mogul, is nothing short of remarkable.

These resources, available for checkout at the PWPL, offer fascinating examinations of Parton’s story.

“She Come By It Natural” by Sarah Smarsh

Parton moved out of her poor but loving Smoky Mountain home, where she was one of 12 siblings, when she turned 18. She headed to Nashville to follow her dreams with almost no money to her name. Smarsh follows the amazing trajectory of her career, beginning with her first big break, recording a top-10 hit ironically titled “Dumb Blond” (an admonishment of a man who calls a woman stupid). Parton started as a “girl singer” managed by powerful men — and she ended up changing the male-dominated country music business.

As Smarsh explores in her book, Parton’s songs gave voice to the lives of women who are often invisible in our society — poor, working-class, and undervalued women, such as Smarsh’s grandma, Betty, who is referenced throughout the book. Parton was a non-political feminist with a great sense of humor — “If I got any charm at all, it’s that I look totally phony but I am totally real”, said Parton in a 1990 interview. “That’s my magic.” I loved this book!

“Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics” by Dolly Parton

This is a highly enjoyable compilation, not just for Dolly fans but for anyone interested in songwriting, country music, and its history. Parton has put the lyrics to 175 of the songs she has written into this collection, along with the stories behind them — which are honestly mesmerizing — and beautiful photographs. She’s also shared some captivating memories of the people she’s worked with along the way. The result is a thoroughly absorbing look at Parton’s life and career. I highly recommend!

“Country Music,” a film by Ken Burns

This fascinating documentary is available on DVD (8-disc series) at the PWPL. It explores the questions of what country music is and where it came from and focuses on the biographies of some of its most important creators, including Parton. Johnny Cash is one of my personal favorites, and the documentary dedicated significant time to him as well.

“Country Music” also offers a fascinating glimpse into the times in which these artists lived and the influence country music had on rock and other genres. I found the entire series absorbing and would recommend it to anyone interested in American history or music.

Find Books on Dolly’s Life, Music, and More at PWPL

Whether you are looking for a book about Dolly and her amazing contribution to society or are looking for her music CDs (“Little Sparrow” is an underrated gem), find it all in the stacks at Peter White Public Library. You can also check her out on the big screen in our DVDs section. The film, “Nine to Five,” has been an anthem for working women across the country. You can find it all here. If you need help tracking any of these items down, just ask at the circulation desk.

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