Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Living Room Bed

Last week Peggy Shifflett, author of The Living Room Bed: Birthing, Healing and Dying in Traditional Appalachia, presented me with my very own copy of her self-published book.

The author, Peggy Shifflett.

I edited this book for her back in January and early February. I really enjoyed working with her and learned that this type of work, that is, editing for folks, is something I desire. I like editing. I think I do a decent job and Peggy seemed pleased.

I really liked being able to hold the finished product in my hands. I stood salivating over it for the longest time after I returned home with it. It is a bit memoir, a bit history, a bit nostalgia, and partly social commentary. I understand from Peggy that she already has quite an audience for her books in the Shenandoah Valley.

She also thanked me in the acknowledgements, which was very kind. This is the fourth book that has mentioned me in the acknowledgements and I am always quite flattered. I also suspect that being mentioned in a book acknowledgement is not something that happens to anyone very often, so I feel very humbled by that.

The cover of the book.

The back of the book.

With chapters such as Midwives of Hopkins Gap, Gender Mattered, Recovering from Childhood Illnesses and Courtship and Marriage, a reader can obtain a historic and eye-opening understanding of the hard life of Appalachian mountain folk prior to the 1960s (and some of these people still live like this today).

Peggy talks about how difficult it was to sleep three or four children to a bed, what it was like to have to go outside to the outhouse, and how horrible it was to be a girl in a patriarchal and overly religious society. Her insight into these kinds of social mores is fascinating. She also interviewed a wide range of folks in Virginia, covering a stretch from Grayson County to Rockingham County, so the book offers up numerous perspectives of the hard life of mountain folk.

If you have any interest in Appalachian history, folk life, or folklore, I urge you to look for one of Peggy's books in gift shops in the Shenandoah Valley. You can also order directly from her. She is in the process of putting up a website but you can email her for ordering information at The book lists for $22.

Disclosure: I'm not receiving any money for promoting this book, but I was paid to edit it.


  1. I'm a few chapters into The Living Room Bed already, and I love it!

    This book (as well as her two other books) are must-haves for those who appreciate the Appalachian way of life.

  2. I love reading history like this. I'll have to look for this book. We had an old house in Saratoga Springs, NY that had what the previous owner called a "birthing room" off the kitchen. What that did for my imagination!

  3. I appreciate your comments. My book may be ordered by calling 540-580-6330. Thank you. Peggy

  4. I am named after grandmaw mollie,
    I'm ethel conleys great granddaugher. I haven't got to read the book yet though. I'm sure its good.


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