Don’t Tell’em You’re Cold: a Memoir of Poverty and Resilience


Katherine P. Manley

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Don’t Tell’em You’re Cold: a Memoir of Poverty and Resilience is an uplifting story of survival from abject poverty, set in the hills and coal camps of southern West Virginia. Katherine Manley and her family faced extreme challenges and struggles with ingenuity and traditional Appalachian stoicism. Beyond the poverty, other obstacles compounded Katherine’s life: a severely disabled father and a mother who struggled with the day-to-day survival. On a cool October morning, she left in a taxi and never returned, leaving 14-year-old Katherine to take care of her father and raise her siblings in her mother’s stead. Katherine went on to become an award-winning teacher, paying forward her hard-learned lessons to thousands of lucky students. This is a story of triumph that encourages everyone to never give up.

Kathy Manley’s compelling memoir ought to be required reading for every person in America today—especially every person in high school. Not a shred of sentimentality or self-pity mars this beautifully written account of an Appalachian childhood spent in deepest poverty, yet Manley’s narrative is neither pitiful nor sad, it is courageous and loving, filled with hope for the future. Read this book.

­— Lee Smith, author Dimestore: A Writer’s Life

“West Virginians are among the very best story tellers in the world, and Kathy Manley is clearly a West Virginian. Her story rings with vibrancy and truth. Highly recommended.”

— Homer Hickam, Author of Rocket Boys/October Sky.

“Kathy Manley’s astonishing and moving memoir Don’t Tell’em You’re Cold is the story of a family with so many strikes against it that even a five year old’s contribution is essential to putting food on the table. This is a record of resilience and love, told with unwavering honesty in a powerful, resonant voice that the reader will live with for a long time.”

— Meredith Sue Willis, author Their Houses

About the Author

Katherine Manley lives in southern West Virginia and has been an educator in Logan County schools for over 35 years. Earning degrees from Marshall University and West Virginia State University, she is a National Board Certified Teacher. She is a fellow of the 1995 West Virginia Writing Project directed by Dr. Fran Simone and the 1996 West Virginia Humanities Council Appalachian Seminar directed by Dr. Judy Byers. Her writing has been featured in Hamilton Stone Review, Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness, The Guyandot Observer, and Fearless: Women’s Journeys to Self-Empowerment. Her short stories have placed in West Virginia Writers’ Contests, and her memoir was a semi-finalist in William Faulkner’s Writing Competition. Katherine has won several prestigious teaching awards including finalist for West Virginia Teacher of the Year, Arch Coal Teacher of the Year, and The Prodigy Foundation Teacher Achievement Award given in memory of the Rocket Boys’ beloved teacher, Freida J. Riley of Coalwood, West Virginia. She is married and the mother of three adult children and has two precious grandsons. In her spare time, you’ll find Katherine hiking the heavenly mountains of West Virginia, reading by a cozy fire, or relaxing at the beach, taking a well-earned rest.