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What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,884 ratings  ·  391 reviews
In 2016, headlines declared Appalachia ground zero for America’s “forgotten tribe” of white working class voters. Journalists flocked to the region to extract sympathetic profiles of families devastated by poverty, abandoned by establishment politics, and eager to consume cheap campaign promises. What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is a frank assessment of America’ ...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Belt Publishing
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Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Rebuttal to Hillbilly Elegy
While reading Hillbilly Elegy was a fun read, I also saw it as a book that held the same ideals as those of a certain segment of our society that believe that you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get religion, and then all will be okay.

Hillbilly Elegy also stereotyped those living in the Appalachian Mountains. For some reason they were all white Scot-Irish when they are also from other European countries, and are also American Indians, Blacks and
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you felt at all compelled to read Hillbilly Elegy, do yourself a favor by reading Elizabeth Catte's work. She convincingly tears apart many of the stereotypes Vance perpetuates, giving a much more nuanced history of the region, from the vast exploitation of land, people, and resources to the resulting labor movements and radical acts of rebellion. Recent media coverage portraying parts of Appalachia as backward and tragically impoverished is nothing new, and she does a better job than most ot ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I’m going to quit my job and walk the earth with a knapsack full of copies of this book and hand them out whenever I hear someone mention hillbilly elegy.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
To begin with a mea culpa. Even though I knew Catte was fighting against the stereotypes, I still expected this book to be a sort of coffee table book one might find described in Stuff White People Like . A sumptuous publication in large format comprising artistic black and white photos of...weird poor people. Nice white people could talk about how awful it all is and how they wish they could do something about it. (Pass the organic vegan caviar, please.)

What did I 'know' about Appalachia bef
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
She gives voice to my issues with "Hillbilly Elegy" ("In Elegy...white Appalachians take on the qualities of an oppressed minority much in the same way that conservative individuals view African Americans: as people who have suffered hardships, but ultimately are only holding themselves back. This construction allows conservative intellectuals to talk around stale stereotypes of African Americans and other nonwhite individuals while holding up the exaggerated degradations of a white group though ...more
Connie G
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
The Appalachian region has been in the news frequently since the 2016 election, and the publication of J.D. Vance's popular book. Historian Elizabeth Catte gives a fuller picture of who lives in Appalachia and the roots of its problems. In addition to the stereotypical Scots Irish white individuals, many Appalachians are also African American, Native American, and Hispanic. Many Appalachians do not fit the profile of a white, male conservative.

Much of the poverty in the region is due to the hist
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started reading Elizabeth Catte’s book and could not stop. I’ve underlined and written notes all through the text of course. My guess is that a good proportion of my friends saw thorough J. D. Vance’s hideous “Hillbilly Elegy”, but it’s a monster best seller and soon to be Ron Howard movie, so maybe not. Read this. Catte eviscerates Vance (who at one point she likens to the monster in ”It Follows”), along with other prime examples of ignorance masquerading as intellect such as Charles Murray, ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who has read Hillbilly Elegy owes it to him/herself to follow up with this book. Better yet, skip Elegy and read this. As far as I can tell, Vance never actually lived in Appalachia. Not only was Catte born and raised in Tennessee, but she is steeped in the economic history of the region. She has strong opinions as well as the academic chops to back them up. Unlike Vance, she achieved success while maintaining an abiding respect and regard for the people she grew up with.
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
As I mentioned in my review of Hillbilly Elegy, I spent part of my childhood in Appalachian Ohio, and the rest of it two counties outside it. My father’s family is from deep Appalachia and have been coal miners for a century. While I would not identify as Appalachian, Appalachian Ohio is intimately familiar to me.

So I take Catte’s point. JD Vance *does* present a homogenized view of Appalachia, and Appalachia is certainly an area that cannot be captured with one image.

However, he never said “a
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics
When I came across commentary about Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, I thought about what I knew of the history of the region and it didn't sit right. So I never did read it. I figured that I wouldn't get any fresh insight from Vance. I read Kephart's Our Southern Highlanders many years ago. So I'm familiar with that perspective. I was glad to come across What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by historian Elizabeth Catte who is also native to the region. I thought I could learn something fr ...more
Author highlights the blacks liberals Latinos progressives of this mountain region and how tree and coal and people exploitation has shaped the culture and economy. And how many many people are fighting to change that pattern.
Rachel Blakeman
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure what I am getting wrong about Appalachia and I just finished this book. The author didn't seem to know where she wanted to go with this aside from getting it out the door to capitalize on the enthusiasm about "Hillbilly Elegy." It had a very haphazard "structure" that never really answered the question. I think she assumed the reader knew a lot more about Appalachian history than most do. Unfortunately she kept comparing it to a book that was simply a wonderful read, which I never t ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A must-read. And as someone who's from Appalachia, I really appreciate her analysis of the region and rebuttal against the horrific stereotypes we're plagued with.
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Catte’s What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is written as a rebuttal to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, a book I have not read and have no intention of reading. Watching from the cheap seats I’ve seen Elegy get pulled apart as Vance’s inconsistencies and frankly racist sources get exposed. While it is certainly a memoir, it isn’t a reliable history.

Which brings me to my only major detraction when it comes to What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, Catte wrote this riled up
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had never read J.D. Vance's 'Hillbilly Elegy' after reading/hearing from other voices stating that it's really not a good representation of his subject(s) and that it's really more about a launching a political office career. So when I saw Catte's response plus a few other articles it seemed like this would be a better representation of the area.

Catte seeks to upend some of the perceptions, stereotypes, common media narratives about the Appalachia. With a mix of history, commentary, and analys
Dennis Fischman
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I thought I knew a few things about Appalachia, but in 150 pages, Catte has taught me:

*That sympathy for the region and disgust for it can be two sides of the same coin.

*That any problem you can find in Appalachia, you can find all over America.

*That the image of Appalachia as “Trump Country” not only ignores the radical opposition, it’s part of a century-long effort to paint Appalachia as backward, stuck in time, a country of its own—in short, an ideology that has been used to exploit the peopl
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
JD Vance’s Book, Hillbilly Elegy, infuriated me. Vance claimed to explain Appalachia to the world, but he completely ignored the historical context that created the poverty of Appalachia. Instead he blamed that poverty on the failings of culturally inferior individuals, completely ignoring the impact of an unholy alliance of exploitive corporations engaged in resource extraction (and now the prison industrial complex) and corrupt local politicians who conspired to use the law and law enforcement ...more
Matthew Noe
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A vital rebuke of Vance, but more than that, a strong foundational history of the region that leaves you ready for more. Which, kindly enough, Catte provides plenty of suggestions on where to go next.
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
I feel like I need to preface this review by saying I'm not into discussing or reading politics.  Anyone who spends enough time on social media knows the insanity of watching people argue their beliefs online.  It's a waste of time and energy.

I didn't bother reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance because what I heard from friends who read it was that he was taking all the stereotypes of Appalachia and telling you how true they are.   No, thank you.

I picked up What You Are Getting Wrong About Appa
Linda Layne
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had a very difficult time making it through this book. Obviously by her title, "What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia" she has problems with J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy." No doubt the title was meant to get the reader's attention and sell more books. It did get my attention.

I am of hillbilly stock, to be more precise, my bloodline is from Appalachia mountains, specifically, the mountains of West Virginia. Now to begin with, I read Vance's book before I read Catte's. I happened to prefe
This one is framed as a response to Hillbilly Elegy and I think this book does a fantastic job of that. There were a number of problematic things in Hillbilly Elegy and this book does a good job of calling those out and addressing them. However, this book felt much more academic in nature and, as a result, I didn't connect with it as easy as I did to Hillbilly Elegy. I did learn a lot but I don't think this is quite as reader-friendly as it could be which did impact my enjoyment of the book. If ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone, please read this book.
Cody Sexton
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
When you see headlines that begin "In the heart of Trump Country" chances are, you're reading an article about Appalachia written by a journalist who isn’t from there. This often repeated Trump Country narrative, to put it reductively, is usually one of poor uneducated racists with no ambition lashing out in anger against coastal elites, but this, as Elizabeth Catte has said, is, "a bad-faith sleight of hand that displaces the reality that the average Trump voter is a college-educated white indi ...more
Austin Gilbert
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This blew me right outta the Ohio River. This was a fantastic pushback against stereotypes and poverty porn and complacency and the Scoundrel JD Vance. I felt pride, I felt outrage, and I felt solidarity. This is a Strong Recommend.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short but necessary counterpoint to Hillbilly Elegy. Catte reviews labor and race issues in Appalachia with far greater nuance than the standard "Trump Country " narrative.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookclub
5+ out of 5.
A sizzling rebuke to J.D. Vance's HILLBILLY ELEGY and to nearly two centuries of misguided racist and classist considerations of the Appalachian region of America. Catte brings receipts and explores the ways in which the region has been fetishized in order to allow middle-class white people an opportunity to not have to think about poor people of color. It's also a manifesto for the left, excoriating the collapse of unions and the rise of corporate interests that have sapped so much
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Who would you guess has the best background to write about Appalachia, a writer and historian from East Tennessee with a PhD in public history, or a venture capitalist who wrote his own personal memoir? In What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, historian Elizabeth Catte compiles the history and social history of the region to dispute J.D. Vance's role as expert after the success of his memoir, Hillbilly Elegy.

There are 25 million people in Appalachia, a region stretching for about 700,000
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Catte seems to have written this book primarily to express her anger over J. D. Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy, which she sees as biased and unfair. She presents some of the history of Appalachia and how the people living there have been used and cheated in order to enrich the coffers of coal mine owners. She sees Hillbilly Elegy as simplistic and believes it wrongly attributes Appalachian poverty to laziness and stubbornness on the part of the residents. Her emphasis on historical wrongs does not ...more
Jun 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
It's hard to tell whether or not Elizabeth Catte made any valid points in her rebuttal of J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy" due to her fragmented writing style and overly academic verbiage. Vance's book was an easy, interesting read written in a vastly more appealing format. Whereas "Elegy" was fluidly written and compelled me to devour its content, trying to muddle through Catte's disgruntled and fragmented diatribe was like mining for nuggets of coal (dark, difficult, and exhausting). The author ...more
Forget Hillybilly Elegy. This is the book you need to read.
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Elizabeth Catte is a writer and historian from East Tennessee. She holds a PhD in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and is the co-owner of Passel, a historical consulting and development company.

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“Many things about Appalachia may be true simultaneously. The support for Trump may be real, too strong for my comfort, and it may also be true that there are many who hoped and still hope for a different outcome.” 4 likes
“How did journalists and correspondents for the New York Times as well as scholars not catch these acts of generalizing and aggrandizing on behalf of elite readers?” she asks. “How did we trade in the breadth of diversity the region has to offer for one view? While reading Hillbilly Elegy I thought, here is how. This is how places and people become caricatures of themselves, ourselves.” 4 likes
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