In the Shadow of the Valley: A Memoir
A clear-eyed and compassionate memoir of the Appalachian experience by a woman who embraced its astonishing beauty, narrowly escaped its violence, and struggles to call it home.
Bobi Conn was raised in a remote Kentucky holler in 1980s Appalachia. She remembers her tin-roofed house tucked away in a vast forest paradise; the sparkling creeks, with their frogs and crawdads; the sweet blackberries growing along the road to her granny's; and her abusive father, an underemployed alcoholic whose untethered rage and violence against Bobi and her mother were frighteningly typical of a community marginalized, desperate, and ignored. Bobi's rule of survival: always be vigilant but endure it silently.
Slipping away from home, Bobi went to college and got a white-collar job. Mistrusted by her family for her progress and condescended to by peers for her accent and her history, she was followed by the markers of her class. Though she carried her childhood self everywhere, Bobi also finally found her voice.
An elegiac account of survival despite being born poor, female, and cloistered, Bobi's testament is one of hope for all vulnerable populations, particularly women and girls caught in the cycle of poverty and abuse. On a continual path to worth, autonomy, and reinvention, Conn proves here that "the storyteller is the one with power."
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About the Author
Bobi Conn was born in Morehead, Kentucky, and raised in a nearby holler, where she developed a deep connection with the land and her Appalachian roots. She obtained her bachelor's degree at Berea College, the first school in the American South to integrate racially and to teach men and women in the same classrooms. After struggling as a single mother, she worked five part-time jobs at once to support her son and to attend graduate school, where she earned a master's degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. In addition to writing, Bobi loves playing pool, telling jokes, cooking, being in the woods, attempting to grow a garden, and spending time with her incredible children.
"An Appalachian memoir from a woman who escaped a cycle of violence, substance abuse, and self-loathing in order to find her voice...the author is to be commended for her courage and determination to change her life circumstances...an inspiration for those attempting to come to terms with abuse." --Kirkus Reviews
"This memoir, although at times achingly sad, provides an uplifting tale of a woman who decided that she would prevail over the hand that life dealt her...An engaging read that will connect with fans of Tara Westover's Educated and those interested in the ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity." --Library Journal
"In sobering detail and with open palms, Bobi Conn mines the depths of her desperation to earn love from a sadistically cruel father and an abused mother, from the boys and men who darken her path, from friends who betray her, and from a God who seems to have turned away from her. Conn's honesty is heroic and heartbreaking as she shares her story of enduring the stigma of poverty and abuse, claiming her self-worth, and discovering the limits of forgiveness. A necessary and timely read." --Susan Bernhard, author of Winter Loon
"This important and necessary debut memoir explores the rich beauty and disturbing tragedy of Appalachia, how the people, like the land, have been exploited by corporate greed. Bobi Conn is a masterful storyteller weaving a tale of extreme poverty; an abusive, drug-addicted father; and a devoted grandmother's love into the wider tapestry of an entire at-risk population's lives. In the Shadow of the Valley is like the hollers that pockmark the land; the beautiful and haunting words will echo in your heart and mind long after the final page." --William Dameron, author of The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing & Coming Out
"From the first sentence, I smiled in recognition of a natural storyteller, one 'born and bound to this land, ' who is a keen observer and a loving inhabitant of the land of which she writes. This book is a wonder--a dark, tragic Appalachian ballad come to full, lush life." --Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, author of Holding On To Nothing
"In her memoir, In the Shadow of the Valley, Bobi Conn recounts the nesting doll of her life, from growing up in a Kentucky holler to eventually becoming a mother of two. But before the promised land, the route there is labyrinthine, complete with moving walls and trapdoors. Even so corralled in these pages, it's clear that Conn's aptitude for survival is enviable. Yet, her strength is that writing has become, for her, a kind of performance art. She wields her own experiences without romanticization or adding shock value for effect, which makes her voice accessible whether she's speaking of exposure to trauma at an early age or grappling with the implications of her upbringing as an adult. In that sense, she has crafted a relatable memoir where she reaches the reader wherever they are and reminds us, 'The hero of the story is always the storyteller. The storyteller is the one with power.'" --Bianca Spriggs, Affrilachian poet and author of We're Still Big Banging