She Come By It Natural - Sarah Smarsh - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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For a long time, I was just like anyone else: I associated the name Dolly Parton with the three Bs (blonde, boobs, bimbo). Then I listened to the Dolly Parton’s America podcast, and everything changed. I recognised Dolly for what she was: our saviour, our guardian angel, a brilliant woman truly capable of single-handedly saving the world.

All of this is to say, Pushkin Press was playing a stacked deck when they sent me a copy of She Come By It Natural by Sarah Smarsh for review. Of course I was going to love it. I would take a bullet for its subject.

Smarsh traces Dolly’s life and career – from a hard-knock Tennessee childhood to stadium shows – with touching little anecdotes about her own family and roots. She Come By It Natural isn’t a biography or a memoir, but a testament to the cultural significance of an icon.

Plus, it’s full of the kind of fun facts I love to lob at my friends and family without warning (did you know Dolly has donated over 133 million books to children through her Imagination Library?).

Smarsh also includes a foreword about how the world has changed since the essays’ original publication as a four-part series; I loved this extra context, and I wish more non-fiction books offered it.

This is a must-read, for both the fans and the barely-familiar.