Far beyond the recently resurrected "Jolene” or quintessential “9 to 5,” Parton’s songs for decades have validated women who go unheard: the poor woman, the pregnant teenager, the struggling mother disparaged as “trailer trash.” She Come By It Natural is a sympathetic tribute to the icon Dolly Parton and—call it whatever you like—the organic feminism she embodies.
In the chapter 'Dolly Parton Masters the Art of Leaving,' Smarsh offers some of her most insightful thoughts on Parton’s songwriting. Tracing in detail Parton’s complex relationship with her boss/mentor/collaborator/antagonist Porter Wagoner, Smarsh discusses the tangled binds that sometimes push women to leave painful relationships that have gone on far too long ... Smarsh writes with conviction about the particular struggles of living in poverty. Wisely, she grounds these discussions in a recognition of white privilege, but her primary focus is on the nature of economic hardship and its impact on women’s decisions ... Smarsh weaves together an integrated picture of what the Parton podcast calls 'the Dollyverse' ... The material in She Come by It Natural first appeared in the music magazine No Depression, unfolding quarterly in four longform pieces throughout 2017. Smarsh made the conscious decision not to update the original perspective, and one result is that this short book becomes an intriguing snapshot of one writer’s engagement with a fraught year of rapidly shifting cultural turmoil ... Smarsh finds a sweet spot between biography and memoir that lets her move nimbly between her personal affection for Parton’s impact on women’s lives and her journalistic analysis of Parton’s artistry, business acumen and iconic role in our quick-changing zeitgeist.
Smarsh probes (though not too deeply) into the problematic aspects of a few shows at Dollywood, and tries to unravel the connection between Parton's business smarts, her acceptance (and proud display) of her own sexuality and the feminism she has been reluctant to (publicly) embrace. The emphasis is heavy on Parton's status as an example and icon to thousands of women ... Along the way, Smarsh examines the criticism--both class- and gender-based--that Parton has received over her half-century in music. While it includes sharp social commentary and well-placed personal anecdotes, She Come by It Natural is at its heart a love letter both to Parton and to the women who continue to see themselves in her songs.
... a bracing personal account that celebrates how Ms. Parton has given a liberating voice to an often ignored segment of the American working class—resilient and independent-minded blue-collar women ... Through the years, and even after Wagoner’s death in 2007, Ms. Parton has played down and publicly forgiven the abusive treatment at his hands. Ms. Smarsh puts back the hurt and sting ... Bristling with sharp insights and righteous anger ... a moving account of how Ms. Parton’s music has helped 'hard-luck women' make their own escapes from deadbeat men and dead-end lives.