Must-Read Working Class Nonfiction


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Kendra Winchester is a Contributing Editor for Book Riot where she writes about audiobooks and disability literature. She is also the Founder of Read Appalachia, which celebrates Appalachian literature and writing. Previously, Kendra co-founded and served as Executive Director for Reading Women, a podcast that gained an international following over its six-season run. In her off hours, you can find her writing on her Substack, Winchester Ave, and posting photos of her Corgis on Instagram and Twitter @kdwinchester.

Some of my favorite memories are spending time at my grandparents’ cabin in Appalachian Ohio. My grandfather would take us for walks up the holler, naming the different kinds of trees and pointing out the various animal tracks in the mud. Now, as an adult, I’m drawn to reading rural, working-class stories. So today, for Riot Recs, I’m sharing two of my favorites. But first, as always, bookish goods!

Bookish Goods

a photo of a trio of bookmark featuring illustration of different rural village scenes

Country Village Bookmarks by LittleBunDesignUK

I have to admit, I love a picturesque rural scene, complete with rolling hills and peaceful animals grazing. Reminds me of home. $5

New Books

a graphic of the cover of Swimming Pretty: The Untold Story of Women in Water by Vicki Valosika graphic of the cover of Swimming Pretty: The Untold Story of Women in Water by Vicki Valosik

Swimming Pretty: The Untold Story of Women in Water by Vicki Valosik

Vichi Valosik presents the history of synchronized swimming, a sport that’s often underappreciated. Through learning about the sport’s past, readers can come to better understand the grit and strength required of these women athletes.

a graphic of the cover of Free the Land: How We Can Fight Poverty and Climate Chaos by Audrea Lima graphic of the cover of Free the Land: How We Can Fight Poverty and Climate Chaos by Audrea Lim

Free the Land: How We Can Fight Poverty and Climate Chaos by Audrea Lim

Journalist Andrea Lim examines the intersection of the climate crisis and how it impacts poverty in the United States and Canada. From oil fields to farmlands, Lim presents a grim picture of how deeply climate change is impacting everyday people’s lives.

Riot Recommendations

A graphic of the cover of Heartland by Sarah SmarshA graphic of the cover of Heartland by Sarah Smarsh

Heartland by Sarah Smarsh

Sarah Smarsh is the first woman in many generations of her family to go to college instead of starting a family right away. After breaking this family norm, Smarsh begins to think about her life as a working-class girl from Kansas and tries to better understand where she comes from. Focusing on the different generations of women in her family, she looks at the history of the heartland and the people who live there. Her prose is intimate, practical, and straightforward. As a teen, she didn’t have time for a lot of friends or boyfriends; she was going to college. Every word pulls its weight as Smarsh describes her childhood living with a family just trying to scrape by.

a graphic of the cover of Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Townsa graphic of the cover of Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns

The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Life in Appalachian Coal Towns by Dr. William H. Turner

Dr. William H. Turner has been writing about Black Appalachian history for decades. Previously, he edited essay collections and researched the vital role Black Appalachians had on the region. Now, Harlan Renaissance focuses on the Black communities in Harlan, Kentucky, where Turner is originally from. Turner discusses how much of the country forgets the importance of Black communities in Kentucky, writing it off as a state with just a bunch of white people. The reality is more complex than that. I really appreciate Turner’s perspective and the care he put into this book. Harlan Renaissance is a brilliant piece of oral and recorded history that celebrates Black Appalachian culture.





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