This year for Orem Reads we travel to the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina for The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb. Based on actual events, this true story of an 18-year-old frontier girl, hanged for murder in Burke County North Carolina in 1833, is a stirring tale of mountain justice, but it is also a study of contrasts between the “mountain south” of log cabins and trappers and the “flat land south” of plantations. The magic in this story is that the author brings to life people who have been dead for more than a century, making us care about the fate of one young girl who should not have been sentenced to death.
Many university classes have studied this book—in surprising places. At the University of Colorado, Frankie Silver was taught in the Anglo-Hispanic Relations class, where the Hispanic students identified with the treatment of Frankie as a minority. The Keene School in Keene New Hampshire studied the book, and those students also identified with Frankie, saying that if someone from New Hampshire committed a crime and was sent to be tried in Boston, they would be treated the same way today (because NH is a mountain region, and Boston was settled by flatland English). The book was also studied in the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia as an example of how law was practiced on the 19th-century frontier, and how poor people fared in the judicial system.
Pick up your free copy of this New York Times Notable Book and bestseller at the adult general reference desk starting September 7 and join us as we explore the legends, natural wonders, history, culture and contemporary issues of Appalachia.
For more information on The Ballad of Frankie Silver, visit sharynmccrumb.com.