An Open Apology To Dolly Parton
I’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,
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
I always liked Dolly, because it was obvious to me that she was a kind and loving person. I was born and raised in New York. My dad was a truck driver and mom stayed home to raise the six of us. They always taught us never to judge a book by it’s cover. I married and have raised my children the same way and my children are raising their children the same way.
I didn’t get to graduate university. I had to work to help the family. I did fine. Worked and retired from AT&T. I then continued my love for writing. We now live in Florida and have for the past 24 years.
I have never met Dolly nor have I ever been to Dolly Wood but have heard what a wonderful, kind, loving and generous woman she is.
I admire you for your apology to Dolly.
I am also happy that you are cancer free. I also beat cancer three times in my life and never take one day for granted. I thank the good Lord every morning that I open my eyes.
Thank you for following my blog and I look forward to reading your offerings.
Reblogged this on Lovingly, Lina and commented:
I thought this was truly amazing of Amy Rawe..
I never thought dolly was a Bilbo. She is from my part of the world. I admire here very much. W ish I could sing like her, but can
yt? Sing at all. Dolly am proud of the work you are doing. Keep up the good work.
Three people you never criticize in East Tennessee – Dolly Parton, Peyton Manning and Pat Summitt. Criticize my mother all you want, but in this area, those three reside right under Jesus, and should be spoken as such. Wonderful letter Amy – We’re glad you’ve come around. 🙂
Amen, Jeffrey, you speak the truth. And luckily, I greatly admire all three. 😉
Thank you for the kind words.
Jag tror inte ett Ã¶gonblick pÃ¥ att fÃ¶rÃ¤ldrar idag, som de flesta tillhÃ¶r den bortskÃ¤mda 40ienl-stgtneratioaen, blir utnyttjade av sina barn och tvingas betala deras brÃ¶llop. Har aldrig hÃ¶rt om nÃ¥gon fÃ¶rÃ¤lder som i modern tid har belÃ¥nat sig fÃ¶r en sÃ¥dan sak och det vore ju idiotiskt att gÃ¶ra det!!
Re # 23 Wasn’t military detention of civilians one of the causes of the American revolution? When is a citizen not a citizen, and who decides? “Any society willing to trade a little freedom for a little security will soon find it has neither.” Ben Franklin.No surprise to me that this administration wants stampede people into giving up their rights. Never let a crisis go to waste.VA:F [10ae2._1166]pl.9se wait…VA:F [1.9.20_1166](from 0 votes)
I’m amazed that none of you commended her on coming to a new realization. It is part of our human nature to try to understand people better, and it’s imperative that once we do, we let those people know. I applaud this writer for being BRAVE enough to admit her past judgements of Dolly Parton and her new found understanding of what Dolly’s image was. We all have that deep down misogyny in us. We, especially as women, tend to judge each other in the most subtle and quiet of ways. Amy Rawe, Thank you for your bravery to expose yourself. No one here knew you felt that way about Dolly until you bore your soul and now you’re being criticized for it, but not by me.
I’m an idiot. I’m racing around and only scanned your replies to Amy and didn’t see the best of the content. My bad. Please forgive.
And this made me smile because it’s so true for all of us…especially in this day of social media and just way too many messages to filter. No apology or “idiot” or forgiveness needed. Thank you again for your comments, I appreciate you, and everyone else who has taken the time to offer their inspirations.
Thank you, Kathleen. I appreciate that you saw my intention and am inspired by your supportive words. Thanks for your bravery, in return.
I have loved her from the first time I ever heard her sing and when I first saw her photo I wanted to be like her. With all the blond hair amazing cloths and a voice sweeter than any I have ever heard. From her Porter years up to the present day she has been my idol. Always making people happy with her music and giving of herself to help others. I never doubted her genuineness.
Your letter of apology to Dolly is a great tribute to the wonderful human being she is.
Thank you, and I admire you for knowing her genuineness from such a young age. You are among the great company I’m now getting to know and enjoy.
My thoughts exactly, pat fancier! I couldn’t have said it better. I am so glad someone else adores Dolly as much as I. She is beautiful, talented, funny, kind, generous, etc. I also have been a fan since the first time on Porter Warner. I love everything about her! Dollywood is amazing. Once in Tennessee at a motel, I met a lady who has known Dolly all her life. When asked if fame had changed her, she replied “not one bit, still the same Dolly”.
She is like a little girl with her cuteness and little giggle that she has. Have always loved her and think she is probably the best female country artist ever, although Reba isn’t far behind. Actually Dolly isn’t cute, she is beautiful but her actions are so cute.
Raw honesty about our cynical side is rare. Thank-you for exposing yours…and mine.🤣 I’ve been many years watching Dolly Parton change this corner of the world for “the better”. My heart is today thanking God and His son Jesus the Christ for her. I have many testimonies today of her impact on my friends and audience’s through her bold witness of Christ Jesus. Her singing “He’s Alive” in many venues, has brought to my hearing of crowds of ordinary people who had to stand and acknowledge Jesus as God’s son and the world’s redeemer. Dolly if you wish to hear more…find me, I’m receiving the help you’ve offered.as my house and business have been taken to ashes. As well as my ministry vehicle. Miracles come true, thanks to both you and Dolly Parton. Blessings to you both. Sincerely.
Truly others see Jesus Christ in and through Dolly. May The Lord continue to bless her with health and longevity.
Everyone should pattern their lives in such a manner. We may not have the financial ability but simple acts of kindness mean so much to others. It would be a better world if people went back to being polite, respectful and show compassion for others again.
Dolly is the Gem of East TN. We grew to love her for the 20 years we lived near Dollywood and enjoyed many trips to that wonderful family venue. She has a heart of gold and is generous beyond measure. Bless you, Dolly, for all you stand for and do. You are a true American.
What a beautiful apology to and realization of a truly remarkable person whose love and kindness will continue to touch others for many years.
Whether ifs her story, southern voice or displays of kindness; Dolly captures each of us and we never lose our admiration. She has many facets of beauty and generosity is a big one!
Welcome to the south! You might change your mind about us too? I’ve read through many of the replies and instead of bashing you for a preconceived misunderstanding. We’ve welcomed you in and shared why we admire and love our southern Barbie! 😂
I too have had these kind of realization. As some of my kin folks would say,” sometimes you gotta pull off the layers to the onion to see if it’s good.” But haven’t been as brave as you to share and address.
Thank you, this reinforces that change can still occur and we all live, learn and can still love inspite of differences!!
I’d be interested to see what your thoughts are on some of your other “southern” experiences.
I’ll be following your blogs now! 😉
I could read a book about this without finding such real-world aprsoachep!
There is not a one among us who hasn’t made a judgment against someone, if only in the privacy of our mind, but it’s a rarity to witness an open, gracious, humble, and heartfelt apology. Your doing so provides inspiration for others to rethink their unfair judgments and to grow. What a beautiful piece-thank you!
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A great story. We have a lot of great entertainers and good people to look up to. Why must we always have to read about the trash and low lifes, instead of the ones trying to make this country better.
Never once did i say wrong about u to me u r who u r there’s no reason why anybody should be putting anybody down God made us all different for a reason we are not perfect in any way nobody on this God forsaken green brown yellow orange purple blue white every color you want to put on this Earth of ours is anywhere near perfect so dolly you just keep up the good work because if anything you have a voice that is very close to perfect
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Hi Amy! I met you when my son and I were hiking near Hot Springs on the Appalachian Trail. My trail name is Kidney, and my son Josiah’s trail name is Tooth. We chatted with you and the teacher you were hiking with for a bit and I’m so glad we did because otherwise I would have missed your amazing writing! Hope this note finds you well 🙂 Sweetly, Noreen
Noreen! I’m so glad to hear from you! I’ve started another message to your email address, and I’ll send that tomorrow. For now, Happy Trails to you and Josiah!