Kentucky state representative Charles Booker tells the improbable story of his journey from one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country to a political career forging new alliances among forgotten communities across the New South and beyond.
Charles Booker grew up in the largely segregated West End of Louisville, in one of the poorest neighborhood in Kentucky. Faith was everything in his large and loving family, but material comforts were scarce. Heat and water were often shut off, and his mother often went hungry so her son could eat. Even after he graduated from law school, Booker rationed the insulin he took for his diabetes. Determined to build a world in which poverty and racism would not plague future generations, he charted his own course into Kentucky politics, a world dominated by Mitch McConnell's formidable Republican establishment.
In this stirring account, Booker unfolds his journey from the heart of Louisville to the deepest reaches of Kentucky’s rural landscapes, reflecting the journey America itself must make on the way to a progressive future. Robbed of multiple family members by gun violence, Booker keenly understood the disturbing power of a broken system that minimizes Black lives. Yet it wasn’t until his unlikely appointment to the Department of Fish and Wildlife—as someone who had never hunted a day in his life—that he understood the transformative power of the issues that bound his family with those in rural Appalachia. This connection was the heart of the bipartisan alliances he formed as the youngest Black state legislator in Kentucky. He soon realized that people in the valleys of coal country had a lot in common with his community in Louisville. Inspired by their stories, Booker ran a landmark primary campaign against establishment-backed moderate Amy McGrath, a campaign where unprecedented voter suppression was met with unprecedented voter turnout. That remarkable grassroots effort garnered nationwide attention and proved that progressive policies can take root in conservative strongholds—and launched Booker's people-centered organization committed to a new Southern strategy, Hood to the Holler. Booker's message of unity galvanized voters of all stripes, revealing common goals in seemingly disparate communities.
From the Hood to the Holler is both a moving success story and an urgent political intervention—a much-needed blueprint for how equity and racial justice might transcend partisan divisions in Kentucky, throughout the South, and across America.