The wonder-filled life of a single older-ish mom.

An Open Apology To Dolly Parton 

Dear Dolly,

10040291_300x300I’ll be honest. I used to think you were a bimbo. I used to think you flaunted your big boobs, teased hair, tiny waist, and your syrupy-sweet southern accent to sell yourself and your brand as a country singer. Granted, I was raised in the Midwest and lived as an adult for many years in the Northeast. I didn’t get you, much less the South.

For example, I’d heard about your origins as a poor girl from the hills of East Tennessee, and when I learned you’d created a theme park in your native Sevier County I rolled my eyes. “Really, a theme park?” I thought. “As if rollercoasters will really help the people of rural Appalachia. Why not create something truly useful to give back to your community, like a library.”


You have created a library, actually, and possibly in a bigger and more magical way than any brick structure filled with books could. And this is where my understanding of who you are really began to shift.

When I moved to Knoxville eight years ago I received a welcome letter from “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.” It informed me that Dolly’s vision was to foster a love of reading among preschool children by mailing a specially selected book each month directly to any child under the age of 5. You had expanded it from Sevier County to my county, and if I had a preschool age child, it said, all I needed to do was sign her up and she would begin receiving books each month.

My daughter was not quite 2 then, and I can still see how her face lit up each time we pulled a book addressed to her out the mailbox every month. Several of them became her early childhood favorites, and are stored away should she have children of her own some day.

As a writer and editor, I’m a book hound and made sure my daughter has been exposed to reading at every turn. But you know better than anyone that not all kids have that privilege. I can’t imagine what a magical gift receiving a book every month must be for kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them or who don’t have easy access to a library. I quickly came to see the genius of your Imagination Library literacy program, and how you were making a difference in so many ways I never realized.

Your father was illiterate, which fueled your literacy passion. Now the Dolly Parton Imagination Library just surpassed gifting one million books to participating children around the world each month. To celebrate, your Dollywood Foundation randomly selected one of those children to receive a $30,000 college scholarship. Two-year-old Evey, from Conway, Arkansas, has no idea yet how fortunate she is, but her parents surely do.

But what finally brings me to this overdue apology is how I’ve seen you respond to the devastating wildfires that swept through your hometown communities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. At least 14 vibrant lives were taken tragically too soon, and thousands of buildings and homes were damaged or destroyed.

You made a public statement saying that you were heartbroken, while also expressing deep gratitude to the firefighters who protected Dollywood and evacuated everyone staying there to safety. Dollywood is the place I once dismissed, but now know is the largest employer in Sevier County and is the largest ticketed tourist attraction in Tennessee, hosting over 3 million guests a season. East Tennessee will count on that tourism to rebuild.

With the humble generosity and graciousness I’m learning is signature Dolly Parton, you’re not only planning a telethon to raise funds for the fire victims, but you’ve also created the My People Fund to provide, as you say, a “hand up to all those families who have lost everything in the fires.”

Those struggling families—and there are hundreds of them—will receive, thanks to you, $1,000 a month for 6 months. Countless stories detail how these families escaped with literally minutes to spare, and with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. And with each story, there’s a strong undercurrent of hope about how strangers helped one another and how this region is “mountain strong.” Your generosity both reflects and inspires this region’s spirit and resiliency.

Tonight, my daughter, who is now 9 and also loves to sing and act, has been using face paint to dress up as one of the DC comic heroines she and her friends admire. When she finished, she asked, “Hmmm, what other Superhero girl do I admire?”

I sat down next to her and said, “Let me tell you about Dolly.” In fact, I hope to take her to a Christmas show at Dollywood during this season of gratitude, and I’ll be making a donation to your My People Fund. I can’t imagine a more inspiring place to be, or a better way to support an amazing example of what it looks like to make the world a stronger place, starting with your own sweet community.

Dolly, I’m sorry I didn’t get you sooner—and I thank you for all you are, and all that you do.

Your biggest fan,

Amy Rawe


Read a Q&A with Amy about this post: An “Open Apology” Gone Viral
WBIR interview: Writer publishes heartfelt apology, thank you to Dolly Parton


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1,386 thoughts on “An Open Apology To Dolly Parton 

  1. Cindy Francis on said:

    I have always loved Dolly Parton ,,anyone who had bad feelings about her only judged her by her beautiful outside…is it jealousy? Not understanding that a woman wants to look and feel beautiful? Not every woman wants to dress the same or wear makeup but they do not Have the right to judge the ones who do.
    Let people be who they want to be , love each other in kindness.
    I have always loved to wear makeup and dress nice .
    Dolly’s music is beautiful and so is her heart ❤️
    Kindness is easy stop judging,

  2. Teresa Roe on said:

    I’m so glad that you have “gotten” Dolly now. I live near Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and visit often. We are very proud of Dolly and everything that she has done for her community. She is treasured here in East Tennessee!

  3. Lovethesmokies on said:

    As a writer, editor and book hound I would think this is a profession and hobby that you have just found? Because I’m a terrible writer and even worse of a book hound but I know myself you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Which is what you have done with Dolly. However I am thankful that you have looked deeper into the book and heart of Dolly. Dolly herself has stated it’s takes alot of money to look this cheap! However Dolly is Dolly she loves people she’s got a heart of gold and has saved her people by bringing in her businesses and brought the place to life as you have now seen. I’m glad to see a mind that was very very shallow has opened up. I hope that you are open minded to all around you. Even the bum on the street or the person you think is something else. Sometimes if you know their heart or their story you may understand more of who they see or why they are where they are or do what they do. I’m glad you openly apologized.

    For those who criticize your statements of Dolly by you calling her a bimbo that is wrong yes however when you make a proper apology to someone you don’t just say sorry Dolly for my thoughts about you. You own up to the situation. I’m sorry for doing, saying, thinking this. That way there is no mistaken of what your sorry for. A friend and myself got in a disagreement or misunderstanding. What she was upset at me for wasn’t what I thought she was upset about and what I was upset about wasn’t what she thought she upset me over. So by just saying sorry it may not be clear of your exact thoughts your apologizing for so that’s why with apologies it’s critical to be open and raw which you did well and I’m glad you did such.

    • Ashley on said:

      Why are you criticizing this mother for her apology? You sound like a complete jerk. It is a beautiful letter and you have no right to critique how “clear” her apology was OR reprimand her initial judgements. You obviously are someone who focuses on the negative and cannot even recognize beauty or true sentiment so what is the point. To the writer, I thoroughly enjoyed your letter and value it’s commentary on aesthetic judgements within our society. Thank you!

      • Lovethesmokies on said:

        I agree it was a beautiful apology and well written and I explained that. It took Dolly helping in this tragedy to open the eyes fully. It is wrong to think badly of others as you have done to me.

        My thoughts your taking as negative is I hope it doesn’t take someone famous doing a great deed being the reason to see someone in a different light. I hope that she also sees others insides vs their outsides without them having to do what Dolly has done to change the thoughts. Her thoughts were wrong that’s a fact she said it and anyone else can see it was wrong but we all do wrong from time to time we own up to it when we are striving to be better. Your words to me is wrong because you have misunderstood but I’ll forgive you for that.

        I didn’t say anything with the thoughts of negativity even defended her against the negativity by other posters. We ALL make mistakes and say or do things we shouldn’t and making our wrongs right is what is important. She did exactly that. Which I’m proud of her for!

        I’ve read her apology to others who doesn’t have the Internet bragging about how nice this was. So take your stone back because I’m not perfect, this mother isn’t perfect, Dolly isn’t perfect and either are you.

        Her clear apology critique wasn’t a critique in the least bit it was a praise of how an apology is supposed to be done and she done it perfect.

        If you read the first line of that paragraph it is addressed to those who is criticizing her apology (which maybe you didn’t read the ones I read that made me write this paragraph) and if you read the last line you will see my praise to the writer.

    • Lovethesmokies on said:

      To the writer of the apology if my post in anyway come out negatively to you please know I never meant in the least teeny bit for it to. I believe what you have said and shown and expressed is remarkable and how we all at times can be very shallow in our thinking and do and say things without looking deeper into someone. I feel your apology was super well written and heartfelt and warm and nothing in my original post was meant to look as if I thought otherwise as Ashley took it.

      We went to the smokies last week to support the area and to Dollywood. As we went to its a wonderful life and Smokey Mountain Christmas I just wondered if possibly you were there too attending a show as you hoped to do.

      I’m not a jerk and never want to be looked at as such as I stated I’m a terrible writer in my post and have been taken wrong. I’m a soft hearted person and try to be kind and treat people with respect so if one took me wrong maybe you would as well.

      • Dear Lovethesmokies and Ashley,
        Thank you both for reading the post and commenting with your thoughts. No offense has been taken, and I certainly understand how something you say or write can be misunderstood and interpreted differently than how you intended. I appreciate that you both were both inspired to express your opinions. Blessings to you both (and to everyone who has commented here, for that matter), and happy new year! Amy

      • Lovethesmokies on said:

        Happy New Year to you as well Amy! I am so glad I looked back tonight and seen your reply! My heart is clear knowing you have seen this and I know you are aware my words weren’t meant in a bad malicious way.

        May we all continue to grow and learn become tolerant of each other, pray for each other, when we disagree do it in a way of kindness and love we don’t all have to agree pray for our leaders pray for our counties citizens pray for our world pray for those who has no one to pray for them and of course fall in love with sweet Dolly! With this being said I hope your 2017 is blessed as well as eery ones. Thanks Amy

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  5. Monte Lemieux on said:

    I’ve always loved Dolly for who she is. Never judge before knowing who people are.

  6. Every time I judge someone it comes back and smacks me so hard in the head it makes me cry on the inside. I think we can all learn a big lesson from this. It’s so easy to see the outside, we forget that we have a projected outside as well. Sometimes I wonder what people think about me, as I know I can be selfish and absorbed at times.
    This beautifully written peace is a wonderful portrait of humanity at its best, thank you so much for being so open and honest.

  7. I Love Dolly Parton. She has done so many wonderful things in her lifetime to help others. I am sure God gave her a Gift to Sing and I so admire the way she uses the results of her talents to help others.

  8. Lynn Stabryla on said:

    Dolly, you rock!!

  9. So wonderful you’ve discovered Dolly, the philanthropist. I am a huge fan of Dolly’s music, her music writing talent, and the amazing number of hits she’s written. I’m also a huge fan of her business savvy, and the fact that she’s been working non-stop since she was a child. She is one very smart cookie, with a heart of gold.

  10. I have cousins that were born & raised in Sevier County, Tennessee. It has never been widely publicized, but Dolly has been giving money (in the amount of $1000 if I remember correctly) to every graduate of the high school that all of my cousins children attended! She has been doing this for many, many years. Dolly was raised dirt poor & she is to be admired for being so generous to the folks in the area that she is from. I have to say that she is a class act!!!

  11. Christopher J. Pauli on said:

    Fantastic story about a very talented lady who knows how
    to ‘give back’ and improve the lot of ALL her people!
    This is how it’s done my “take a knee” quarterback and
    ungrateful American citizen!
    God bless you Dolly Parton!

  12. Dolly’s “look” was inspired by the town hooker. When Dolly was a girl, she went to town and played her guitar in the street and sang. The lady stopped for Dolly, admired and complimented her, and gave her a $20 bill. The first $20 bill Dolly had ever seen. Another lady in the town approached and ran the hooker off and made Dolly give her the money back since it was “dirty money”. Dolly thought the lady was BEAUTIFUL and couldn’t stand seeing her be treated that way. Dolly herself plays the role of the pretty lady who was a hooker in her new Christmas movie. This lady that Dolly saw the good in as a child was her inspiration to dress up how she does. And she is beautiful-through and through, inside and out! Thanks for sharing! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  13. Thank you for sharing this story. I’ve always loved Dolly’s music but this story makes me admire her even more. I should have known that someone who could write the songs she’s written had an amazing soul.

  14. Such a kind post, and we all need to be kind, and to honour kindness. Thank you

  15. Amy, that is the nicest letter I’ve ever read. Dolly is a miracle in herself with the biggest heart I’ve ever known. I remember watching Dolly long ago with Porter Wagoner before her ‘look’ changed. She is an icon!

  16. Reblogged this on education pathways and commented:
    Dolly Parton has helped make readers one book at a time. Read this reblogged post if you do not know the story of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, her importance to the economy of Tennessee, or her generosity in the wake of the terrible fires.

  17. This made me cry, what a wonderful thing to do

  18. Gordon Michaud on said:

    What a beautiful apology. We all have read stories about disasters around the country and they have all broken my heart. I hope that we all will be able to learn from this example that Dolly has blessed us with. No matter your race, gender, what ever religion you choose to practice, we are all one people. It is sometimes difficult to get past obstacles like politics or status of wealth. For all our faults, those were learned. It is never to late to learn how to love. I try every day to learn something new, have a conversation with someone new or at the very least, say hello to people I don’t know. It is a big world and there are so many wonderful people out there. Thank you Dolly for reinforcing that. You make me want to be a better person. My wife and I decided to not do our Christmas shopping last weekend so that at the time, we hoped that Gatlinberg would be open for us, and it is. Please know that we will continue to support our people here and afar. My niece and nephew, along with my grandson will be enjoying gifts from our home, our people, our mountains. We love you Dolly!!

  19. Kelly Wood on said:

    The world is a better place because of people like Dolly! Sad that there ar so few. I myself tried to help others but in the end I lost. Thank you Dolly. Keep up the good work.

  20. princenissi on said:

    Wow…. It’s so…. emotional

  21. Susan Wallace on said:

    Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn have both given freely back to the state they call home by setting up businesses that employ local citizens as well as generously giving to worthwhile charities there.

  22. Pingback: An Apology to Dolly Parton | Ancient Reptile

  23. I agree never judge a person until you have actually learned their life story.

  24. Jennifer Saunders on said:

    This is very nice but when I read the the first sentence, my first thought was that you lived in a bubble. Yes, I think libraries are important, but people need jobs. I am a big fan of Dolly Parton’s music but I am a bigger fan of her efforts to help lift people where she grew up out of poverty. I am glad you get it now.

  25. Charlene. on said:

    It’s so amazing what Dolly Parton is doing,she is an amazing person,I have always loved her as a person and loved her music,so sad what happened in Tennessee,we visit there every year we love Gatlinburg and the mountains,we could not imagine what the people there are going through and we are so thankful for Dolly Parton for doing such a great things and as we watched her on TV the other night you could just tell how big her heart is and how humble she is,so glad she got all those stars together for that but I don’t believe it was that hard for everyone to come together for a great cause,Thank you so much Dolly!!! YOU ROCK!

  26. I had no idea that she was responsible for so many wonderful things! This article brought tears to my eyes.

  27. Hi Amy, we’d love to crosspost this to HuffPost. Please email me at sahaj.kohli@huffingtonpost.com if you’re interested!

  28. Pingback: Bet you didn’t know Dolly Patron Ran A Program to encourage Children to Read – ivanlea

  29. Cloris Boyd on said:

    Years ago I read Dolly’s book titled, Dolly My Life and Other Unfinished Business, and really came to appreciate her even more as a result. Events in her childhood brought back many similarities from my own and being about the same age events shaped up also. Dolly is my hero, she has true beauty in & out not to mention being a Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter and starring in such movies as 9 to 5, Best little whorehouse in Texas, and Straight talk.among others and her themepark, Dolly wood in her Native Tennessee has has been enjoyed by millions over the years. A.multi talented humanitarian she truly is, and reintegrating my life growing up in Brentwood Mo, by the way as an African American, was very similar to hers growing up in eastern Tennessee, and that connect made ready her early autobiography all the more interesting.

  30. I once said to a couple of guys how “real” Dolly was/is. They laughed at my comment as they commented on her hair/makeup, etc.
    My comment referred to her soul. She is genuine, sincere, generous, kind, encouraging, and a gifted songwriter and singer. I remember her singing on the local Knoxville Cas Walker show.
    I have always admired her, and my admiration just shot up when I saw her recent fundraiser. Go Dolly!

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  32. I have always admired Dolly! Such a Beautiful Beautiful Soul. I had the pleasure of seeing her beautiful face up close and personal when I took my children to Dolly wood some years ago and it just so happened to be the Big Parade Day where she is always the Grand Marshall. I was star struck and frozen with tears streaming down my face. I felt her presence and Love as our eyes connected and she waved. It was a powerful moment.

    10 years forward, my son, a senior in H.S. Great student, an awesome football player, had the pleasure to participate and be a part of her program, Imagination Library. D7 Spartanburg SC has proudly adopted her program. Several seniors, football players, including my Son, went to the elementary schools and read to the kids. The kids, both big and small, loved every moment!

    Thank You Dolly for all that you have done and continue to do! We Love you.

  33. Pingback: An Open Apology To Dolly Parton  | The Starline Journal

  34. This is a wonderful article. Too many people judge the outside before they take a look at the insides. This is the time of the year, especially, we need to reach out to someone in need. Thank you so much for this article. It’s nice to hear something so moving during the holiday season! God Bless You Dolly!

  35. This “dumb blonde” in her own words only looks like one, she has talent, heart and a natural grace that never gets old. I now get it: her giving loving heart rejuvenates her each day. Thanks for this. I owe her too.

  36. Pingback: tennessees-fires-brought-dolly-parton-a-new-mission-and-an-apology | E-Daily Warehouse

  37. Very well written. I now feel educated about her myself. Truly inspirational.. There are so many celebs that do anything for their community. This is a great story.

  38. Robert Gordon on said:

    There are almost no celebrities that do nothing for anyone except themselves….save a few….but none come even close to Dolly Parton…I find it sad that people think as this woman did that the south is full of ignorant people who need a book more then anything because southerners are so dumb…i see she has come to see that as a false conclusion now and especially here in Sevier County we have more of the wealthy communities, Homeowners and vacationers of over 4 million per year which if you look at the size of Sevier county getting the vacationers in and out of here safely is a feat in itself plus make sure everyone has a great time. Unfortunately alot of people think about Dolly and Tennessee as this woman once did and are proven wrong every time now away with my personal feelings and to the matter at hand. I’m Glad yu got to know a little about Dolly she is a true hero one of the few left if not the last and she will be missed so very badly when she sings her last song. I could cry just thinking about it. perhaps if you’re wanting to come to Dolly wood and show her a great day at the them park then the water park google the Dolly Parton parade in Sevierville or Pigeon forge and perhaps your daughter will get her autograph and get to talk to Dolly. This is a day normally reserved for locals but who would ever know lol. I hope you both get to see her and meet her she will blow your mind at how REAL she is and how her heart and love shines through. If i was planning a trip for my daughter to be a fun for both child and adult and educational and enspiring there is no better place to come than to Dolly parton Land. From someone with a daughter to another with a daughter take this chance to allow them to meet.

  39. Robert Austin on said:

    May God bless you dolly for your loving kindness and compassion for people. You are beautiful and kind hearted and I love your movies.

  40. Pingback: An Open Apology To Dolly Parton  — Rawe-struck | Mon site officiel / My official website

  41. Wow so many haters. How many comments come from close personal friends of the writer? No, I am not embittered, just realistic. First of all, this writer decided that she had a change of mind when Dolly Parton was making headlines recently. Why a change of mind now all of a sudden? Why not a year ago, why now? Simply because she knew how to capitalize on a headline story while it is hot. She is a writer, come on, Where is the mention of the people who lost lives and homes? Not one mention here. I apologize to the few northerners who do not have the attitude as described, you are few and far in between. In my fifty plus years of existence, I have indeed experience the “look down on the poor southerner” attitude by 96 percent of northerners throughout my various business and social dealings. And bless your heart back at you to those who commented likewise.

  42. This was truly heartwarming to read. Sometimes the people that you would least expect are the biggest givers! Dolly is beautiful inside and out.

  43. Reblogged this on The Entertainment Patrol (and general musings) and commented:
    This is a fantastic post that caught my eye the other day. It shows that looks can be deceptive and that you should never judge a book by its cover.

  44. Brenda Allen Degler on said:

    I have been going to gatlinburg and pigeon Forge since I was a child. It is one of my favorite places. I live close enough to just go for a weekend or for vacation! The fires in gatlinburg hurt me deeply.Both for the beautiful landscape and for the people who suffered loss. I will continue to go as long as I’m able.

  45. More people should know these things. As a former primary teacher I can appreciate them fully. 🙂 — Suzanne

  46. Melissa Ann Vaughn on said:

    Dear Dolly Parton ! I am one of your biggest fan’s and I would love to meet you in person. Where I live in Corinth Mississippi. We have a place called crossroads area where singer come and put concert singing songs. I can’t come where you are at. I am hoping you can come where I am at. I love you Dolly Parton and your music is the greatest. I would love to receive reading books for a child to read. LOVE YOU ALWAYS

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