She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs

She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs

The National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of Heartland focuses her laser-sharp insights on a working-class icon and one of the most unifying figures in American culture: Dolly Parton.

Growing up amid Kansas wheat fields and airplane factories, Sarah Smarsh witnessed firsthand the particular vulnerabilities—and strengths—of women in working poverty. Meanwhile, country songs by female artists played in the background, telling powerful stories about life, men, hard times, and surviving. In her family, she writes, “country music was foremost a language among women. It’s how we talked to each other in a place where feelings aren’t discussed.” And no one provided that language better than Dolly Parton.

Smarsh challenged a typically male vision of the rural working class with her first book, Heartland, starring the bold, hard-luck women who raised her. Now, in She Come By It Natural, originally published in a four-part series for The Journal of Roots Music, No Depression, Smarsh explores the overlooked contributions to social progress by such women—including those averse to the term “feminism”—as exemplified by Dolly Parton’s life and art.

Far beyond the recently resurrected “Jolene” or quintessential “9 to 5,” Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” Parton’s broader career—from singing on the front porch of her family’s cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains to achieving stardom in Nashville and Hollywood, from “girl singer” managed by powerful men to leader of a self-made business and philanthropy empire—offers a springboard to examining the intersections of gender, class, and culture.

Infused with Smarsh’s trademark insight, intelligence, and humanity, She Come By It Natural is a sympathetic tribute to the icon Dolly Parton and—call it whatever you like—the organic feminism she embodies.

Title:She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs
ISBN:9781982157289
Format Type:

    She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs Reviews

  • Anne Bogel

    This is the book I didn’t know I needed in my life! Reading about Dolly’s life, both personal and professional, was an unexpected grace during a hard season. With history, biography, and close-rea...

  • JanB

    3.5 starsWhat a national treasure. Fan or not, most of us are aware of many of her songs. For those who make fun of her appearance, the joke is on them. Her success and business acumen in a male-domin...

  • Vonda

    From the description it led me to think this was a biography and sharing tales of the people she wrote her songs about.. Not so. The original piece this book was based on was four years old so it's no...

  • Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    I cannot begin to explain or understand the magic of Dolly Parton. She's a savvy businesswoman and appears to be one of the kindest and most generous human beings on the planet, not to mention the fac...

  • Geoff

    I really hope Dolly Parton doesn't have to any skeletons in her closet, because that would be just devastating; it's hard not to think of here as both a feminist icon and an American Saint. Her embrac...

  • Rennie

    3.5 This is such a conundrum because I loved the parts about Dolly's life and how so much of what she did was revolutionary in terms of the time and how she was treated (often abhorrently). I felt les...

  • Darla

    With Dolly on the cover, I anticipated a book that gave me additional positive insights into her life. Sarah and I were both at the same 2016 concert in Kansas City. My respect for Dolly Parton was ra...

  • Sage

    I really enjoyed this book. I’ve been a fan of Dolly Parton, and of country music, for my whole life, and the debt that country music owes Dolly is immense. I liked the juxtaposition of Dolly’s li...

  • Angela~

    I didn’t really care for this book too much. I thought it was a book about Dolly Parton, but it was a book about Dolly and feminism. And Dolly herself has said she’s not a feminist, that she just ...

  • Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    SHE COME BY IT NATURAL: DOLLY PARTON AND THE WOMEN WHO LIVED HER SONGS by Sarah Smarsh is as much for the 🎵 Jolene🎵 fans as it is for those wanting to turn a critical eye to the influence of Dol...