Miss Willie, first published in 1951, is part of Giles’s Piney Ridge Trilogy. It tells the story of an earnest teacher who moves to the hills of Kentucky to teach in a one-room schoolhouse. Zealously, she tries to change the ways of the stubborn and proud Appalachian people, but to no avail. They listen to her ideas about sanitation and other foolishness because to argue would be rude. But in the end they quietly go about their accustomed ways.
Ultimately, Miss Willie realizes that the hill customs have a beauty and dignity of their own and that some of her efforts to reform them were ill-conceived. Her warmth, generosity, and humor help her bridge the gap and find fulfillment in Piney Ridge. This is a story of reconciliation and the coming together of two different ways of life. Above all, it is a story of people and of the land to which they belong.
By Janice Holt Giles