Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Guest Post by Rebecca Duvall Scott, Author of When Dignity Came to Harlan

Please join me in welcoming Rebecca Duvall Scott to Let Them Read Books! Rebecca is celebrating the publication of her debut historical novel, When Dignity Came to Harlan, based on the true story of her great-grandmother. Read on for a glimpse into the family history behind the story!

I made up my mind right then and there that I would just have to wade into this move like wading into a pond or lake I'd never seen before - slow and steady, feeling around for my footing and trying to avoid the sharp edges at the bottom that you never see coming.


News of what really happened to me - to us - spread through town like wildfire. It caught from one dry gossip tree to another and burned them to the ground with shame.


"Y'can do this, child - show 'em why I call y'Dignity," my old friend winked at me.

Skillfully written and sure to draw you in to its pages, When Dignity Came to Harlan is set in the early 1900s and follows twelve-year-old Anna Beth Atwood as she leaves Missouri with her family dreaming of a better life in the coal-rich mountains of Harlan County, Kentucky. Anna Beth’s parents lose everything on the trip, however, and upon asking strangers to take their girls in until they get on their feet, Anna Beth and her baby sister are dropped into the home of Jack and Grace Grainger – who have plenty of problems of their own. Anna Beth suffers several hardships during her time in Harlan, and if it wasn’t for her humble and wise old friend who peddles his wisdom along with his wares, all would be lost.   

Based on a true family history, this is a story of heartbreak and hope, challenges and perseverance, good and evil, justice and merciful redemption. It exemplifies the human experience in all its many facets and shows what it means to have real grit. 

Take the journey with us and see how, with the unseen hand of God, one girl changed the heart and soul of an entire town.  

Every person’s heritage is sacred, but what if yours had the makings of an amazing story? I spent a lot of my childhood at my grandmother’s kitchen table, mesmerized by the anecdotes of our forebears. I could see my great-grandmother, May Wood Elliott Kerr, being packed into a covered wagon with three of her sisters at the tender age of five. She would leave her eldest sister, who was married, behind and journey from Leadwood, Missouri, to Edmonson County, Kentucky, in search of a better life. Upon arrival, however, her parents had no money or place to stay, so they asked neighbors to take the girls in until they could get on their feet. The sisters were parceled out to strangers to earn their room and board, and May, unknowingly, was put into a very harsh home. The saddest part is that her parents never came back, and the girls grew up separated in foster care with many challenges to overcome. 

You know how bad it was? Besides the stories passed down through the generations, we have found documents that list my great-grandmother on the 1910 census as a servant in the foster home … as well as her first marriage certificate where her parents’ names are left blank! She was only five when they left her, remember, so until she reconnected with her older sisters, she didn’t even remember her parents’ names. Among the few photographs that survived the tumultuous time, my favorite is the one where she is holding a cat in front of her foster house. May cut out the man and his wife but kept it because she liked the cat!

I began taking notes for this Christian historical fiction novel in honor of my great-grandmother and grandmother when I was sixteen … which is a good thing because my grandmother suffered a stroke that took her ability to communicate ten years later. I turned in the first 70 pages of the manuscript to my creative writing professor in college when I was a senior, and on graduation day, he shook my hand and said, “Rebecca – please finish your story.” After becoming a wife and a mother, I did indeed turn back to Anna Beth Atwood, the character based on May Wood Elliott Kerr, who I had left in Harlan. I realized I couldn’t have finished it a moment before I did because I had to grow up myself and gain important life experiences to even do it justice. It is a deep-hearted book, and a dream come true. I am grateful the story chose me.

About the Author:

Rebecca Duvall Scott is an accomplished author and the recipient of numerous awards. Her first published work and best-selling memoir, Sensational Kids, Sensational Families: Hope for Sensory Processing Differences, chronicles the research, interventions, and mindset shifts that successfully brought her family through her son’s SPD diagnosis. While she values her special needs initiative, her heart has always been with Christian historical fiction. Her best-selling and #2 Amazon Hot New Release novel, When Dignity Came to Harlan, is based on her great-grandmother’s childhood. Rebecca lives with her husband and their two children in Kentucky and plans to write more in both the Dignity and Sensational Kids series.

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