An interview with Nancy LeSourd, Publisher of Gilead Publishing’s Evergreen Farm imprint about Catherine Marshall’s Christy

Some stories are evergreen, their themes and lessons standing the test of time and connecting with readers generation after generation. One such book is Catherine Marshall’s Christy, originally released in 1967 and now celebrating its 50th anniversary with the release of a new hardcover edition and its first-ever release as an eBook from Evergreen Farm, an imprint of Gilead Publishing.

Based on Marshall’s mother’s life, the story of Christy is one of determination, devotion and commitment to making a difference in the world. Marshall’s best seller tells the story of 19-year-old teacher Christy Huddleston who moves from her home in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1912 and finds herself in Cutter Gap, a Smoky Mountain community that feels suspended in time, trapped by poverty, superstitions and century-old traditions.

Christy struggles to find acceptance in her new home, and some of the Cutter Gap residents see her — and her one-room school — as a threat to their way of life. Her faith is challenged by trial and tragedy, and her heart is torn between two strong men with conflicting views about how to care for the families of the Cove.

In this interview, publisher Nancy LeSourd explains why the Christian fiction classic Christy still endures after 50 years, how it impacted Christian publishing, why the MGM movie was canceled, and why Catherine Marshall’s family loved the 1990s TV series…

Q: How many copies of Christy have been sold in the last 50 years since its original release?

Exact figures are hard to estimate as the way sales are tracked has changed throughout the years. The book has also been re-released in various formats from different publishers. However, with the information we do have, we believe more than 10 million copies have been sold.

Q: Why do you think Christy resonated with so many people at the time it was written? What makes this story as culturally relevant today as it was when it was first written?

Christy was first released in 1967, a turbulent time in our nation’s history. Americans were politically at odds with one another, and protest, frustration, anger and violence in the streets of America were at new heights. The civil rights movement faced tensions as the Black Power movement challenged the Martin Luther King nonviolent protest approach.

The number of young people drafted to fight in the Vietnam war brought the reality of death to many families. Drugs were rampant.

The story of Christy, though set 50 years earlier, was not so different from the time in which the novel was first published or today. The Mission represented the desire of outsiders to live alongside the mountain people and provide education and guidance. In reality, it was an attempt to create social change.

The centuries-old “mountain ways” were threatened by the Mission school and its “newfangled” ideas. Christy’s desire to educate her students, challenge superstitions, and to open up opportunities for them outside of the Cove threatened the fabric of the lives of these isolated people and even the cohesion of their community.

Evil existed in the excesses of alcohol and the problems of an economy heavily dependent on the sale of the moonshine. Feuding caused deaths that seemed senseless and tore families apart.

Now we are nearly in the 2020s, and Christy is just as relevant today as ever before. Wherever there are young people who are passionate about impacting others, changing society’s social problems or caring for those who are impoverished or uneducated, there is Christy.

Q: Readers throughout time have always had a strong emotional connection to Christy. What is it about Christy that resonates with young women especially?

The story of Christy has endured because of its timeless themes. A young person, barely 19, is inspired to contribute her time and talents to make a difference. Her idealistic ideas clash head-on with those who see her as an outsider, a do-gooder and a meddler. Christy has to learn how to come alongside people she wants to “help” and learn how to care — really care — for them, one person at a time.

Throughout the years, we have learned of many people inspired by the story of Christy who became a teacher or a doctor or who entered public service living among the poor in their communities in the United States or abroad.

“Christy” by Catherine Marshall – Book Trailer

Q: Are there special features in the new edition for both those who have read and loved Christy many years ago and younger generations who aren’t familiar with the book?

Actually, there are no commemorative features. In this new edition we went back to the original model, creating a book that can be easily read by millions of new readers.

Our intention was to create a book to be read, not placed in a shelf as a keepsake. In addition to this new hardcover addition, the book is available in digital format for the first time. We’re so excited to be able to reach new readers with the eBook.

Q: In what ways will millennials be able to relate to Christy, a character based on a woman who was born 120 years ago?

There is an entire generation who does not remember the CBS TV series. I gathered our children to watch it every week, but they were two and four when it aired. Today they are 25 and 27. The largest demographic by 2020 will be the millennials. Their choices, passions, investments of time, talent and treasure will impact America economically, politically and socially.

I am particularly excited to introduce this audience to the novel Christy, a timeless tale of courage, determination and passion — a story very much reflective of millennials today. With their desire to make a difference, ingenuity to create businesses or engage in work that has social impact and rejection of cash donations in favor of offering their time and talents or social enterprise, it is time to introduce them to this amazing young woman, Christy.

Christy and other key characters in the novel, such as the doctor and a minister, have to learn how to take who they are and what they have to give and learn to serve a community that challenges them in ways they cannot anticipate.

How these key characters approach trying to make a difference — all very unique and different — are everyman and everywoman who desires to do the same in their own community today. The wonderful thing about millennials is that they are disrupters; they want to make a difference. The desire to be a change agent often starts in the heart, as did Christy’s desire to come to the mountains to teach children.

That inspirational motivation can sometimes flag when met with obstacles, resistance or even hatred. The story of Christy takes on these challenges head-on and does not flinch with depicting the realities of pitting the enthusiastic change agent Christy against resistant, suspicious people in the community. How she navigates her life in the Cove and her passion to make a difference applies to anyone who wants to make a difference in his or her community, business, charity or social enterprise.

Click to read more and find out how Christy has shaped an entire publishing industry, details about the MGM film that was canceled, and why Catherine Marshall’s family loved the Christy TV series…

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