Growing up on welfare, food stamps, and Greyhound busses, Holly Thompson Rehder quit school at fifteen to help take care of her mother and younger sister after a devastating car accident. Getting married and pregnant soon thereafter, like so many other young girls caught in the poverty-cycle, Holly decided that the life she had been raised into was not what she intended to give to her child.
But unlike others who wind up mired in a lifetime of poverty, dysfunction, and despair, Holly used her resourcefulness, faith, and sheer stubborn American grit to fight her way out of the gutter.
Two decades later she was a successful businesswoman. And today, she is an author and a Missouri State Senator who works to bring hope to those who grew up like she did.
In the Missouri General Assembly, Senator Thompson Rehder has continually fought to update laws surrounding mental health, drug addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault, and bring reforms to the welfare system. She serves as an inspiration to young women across the state of Missouri–and indeed, the entire nation–all while never forgetting where she came from.
A rare lawmaker who speaks candidly from raw personal experience, in Cinder Girl, Holly’s memoir, Rehder rises above standard political prose to provide an unvarnished look inside the worst of American poverty–those living in the margins. Cinder Girl is a compelling true life story. Part Hillbilly Elegy, part Ozark, this gripping story takes you through the human tragedy of poverty and addiction, but not without the critical ingredients of hope and perseverance that characterize Rehder’s unique story.
Cinder Girl, however painful at times with such a raw look at sexual abuse, domestic violence, and drug abuse; is an honest glimpse into what survival and triumph looks like growing up on America’s fringe. Holly doesn’t just talk about the American Dream, she embodies it.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Holly Thompson Rehder spent her formative years in Dallas, Texas, before moving to southeast Missouri, where her parents and extended family has lived for more than five generations. She has three children, Raychel Jarrett, Johnny Griswell Jr., Christian Rehder, and three beautiful grandchildren, Kayden Ray Talley, Karlei “Sassy” Jarrett, and Liam “SJ” Griswell.