Betty by Tiffany McDaniel just might be one of my favorite books of 2020. I picked this beauty up from one of my favorite local bookstores, Valley Bookseller (located in Stillwater, MN) after winning a gift card on Independent Bookstore Day #shoplocal. After reading Betty, I am so happy with my choice because this is a book that will stick with me and I am glad I have a copy for my shelves. McDaniel's writing will stick to your bones and this story will haunt your thoughts well after you finish. Betty is a character that will stay with me forever and I cannot say enough good things about this novel.
Set in the foothills of the Appalachians in a small town called Breathed, Ohio. Betty Carpenter is the sixth of eight kids, born in bathtub to a white mother and Cherokee father, living on the cusp of poverty in a town that does not accept anyone with a skin tone darker than them. Betty is a resilient, thick skinned little girl who looks up to her father, who is incredibly supportive and loving, and loves but fears her mother, who has faced imaginable hardship from those who were meant to love and protect her. As Betty grows, she discovers her family's dark secrets and how harsh the world can be, especially for a woman. Betty reconciles with what she learns by writing the stories down and burying them in the dirt . Her story is rich with Cherokee folklore, the beauty of nature, and how a wild imagination can transport you far from the harsh realities of home, but also how the legacy of abuse can be passed down by generations until someone finally puts an end to it.
Betty is inspired by generations of Tiffany McDaniel's family and her own mother, Betty.
This book is hauntingly beautiful. Coming of age stories with a female protagonist are one of my favorite novel concepts. Betty is fierce, curious, imaginative, and will quickly find a way into your heart. The aspect of Betty that I loved the most was how the story portrayed the hardships women face during every stage of life. From being a young girl to an aging woman, the patriarchy is there every step of the way. What sets Betty apart is the presence of a loving and supportive father who uplifts Betty and her siblings. Betty's father, Landon, is such a heartwarming character and I loved reading about their father daughter bond.
Keep the tissues handy with this one because you are sure to shed some tears. There are also some pretty heavy themes and topics with this one, including some heartbreaking and despicable accounts of sexual abuse. Check out the content/trigger warnings below and just be aware of what you are getting yourself into.
Content warning: racist comments towards BIPOC, especially indigenous people, rape, incest, violence towards children, death of children, bullying, sexism
"Don't let it happen to you, Betty. Don't ever be afraid to be yourself. You don't wanna live so long only to realize, you ain't lived at all."
"I realized then that pants and skirts, like gender itself, were not seen as equal in our society. To wear pants was to be dressed for power. But to wear a skirt was to be dressed to wash the dishes."
"Funny that 'she' should be in 'sheet,' ain't it? I reckon it's just another way to lay on a woman and get away with it."