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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
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BOOK OF THE MONTH > ARCHIVE - APRIL 2018 - HILLBILLY ELEGY - DISCUSSION

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 04:05PM) (new)

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This is the thread for the April Book of the Month


Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance by J.D. Vance J.D. Vance

Free audible version of book on Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stUd9...


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 04:11PM) (new)

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF "6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP'S WIN" AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 04:15PM) (new)

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Editorial Reviews

“[A] compassionate, discerning sociological analysis…Combining thoughtful inquiry with firsthand experience, Mr. Vance has inadvertently provided a civilized reference guide for an uncivilized election, and he’s done so in a vocabulary intelligible to both Democrats and Republicans. Imagine that.” (Jennifer Senior, New York Times)

“[Hillbilly Elegy] is a beautiful memoir but it is equally a work of cultural criticism about white working-class America….[Vance] offers a compelling explanation for why it’s so hard for someone who grew up the way he did to make it…a riveting book.” (Wall Street Journal)

“[Vance’s] description of the culture he grew up in is essential reading for this moment in history.” (David Brooks, New York Times)

“[Hillbilly Elegy] couldn’t have been better timed...a harrowing portrait of much that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations...an honest look at the dysfunction that afflicts too many working-class Americans.” (National Review)

[A]n American classic, an extraordinary testimony to the brokenness of the white working class, but also its strengths. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read… [T]he most important book of 2016. You cannot understand what’s happening now without first reading J.D. Vance. (Rod Dreher,The American Conservative)

“J.D. Vance’s memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy”, offers a starkly honest look at what that shattering of faith feels like for a family who lived through it. You will not read a more important book about America this year.” (The Economist)

“[A] frank, unsentimental, harrowing memoir...a superb book...” (New York Post)

“The troubles of the working poor are well known to policymakers, but Vance offers an insider’s view of the problem.” (Christianity Today)

“Vance movingly recounts the travails of his family.” (Washington Post)

“What explains the appeal of Donald Trump? Many pundits have tried to answer this question and fallen short. But J.D. Vance nails it...stunning...intimate...” (Globe and Mail (Toronto)


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 04:25PM) (new)

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About the Author:



James David "J. D." Vance (born James Donald Bowman; August 2, 1984) is an American author and venture capitalist known for his memoir Hillbilly Elegy. The book is about the Appalachian values of his upbringing and their relation to the social problems of his hometown.

The book was on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2016 and 2017. It was a finalist for the 2017 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

It attracted significant attention during the 2016 election from national media as a window into the white working class. Vance attracted criticism from some Eastern Kentuckians who said he was "not a hillbilly", while others supported him.

James David Vance was born in August 1984 in Middletown, Ohio, as James Donald Bowman, the son of Donald Bowman and Bev Vance. Vance's only sister, Lindsay, was born when his mother was nineteen years old.

His mother and father divorced when Vance was a toddler. Not long after, Vance was adopted by his mother's third husband.

Vance's mother struggled with prescription pain medication which led into a heroin addiction throughout his childhood. She left behind a string of husbands and offered little stability. As a result Vance and his sister were raised primarily by his grandparents.

Education
Vance was educated at Middletown High School, a public high school in his home town. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in Iraq performing public affairs activities.

Vance later graduated from The Ohio State University, a public university in Columbus, Ohio. While he was at Ohio State, he worked for Republican state senator Bob Schuler.

After Ohio State, Vance attended Yale Law School. During his first year at Yale, his mentor and professor, Amy Chua convinced him to write his memoir. [18]

Life and career
After law school, Vance worked as the principal in a venture capital firm owned by Peter Thiel,known as Mithril Capital Management LLC. In December 2016, Vance indicated that he planned to move to Ohio to start a nonprofit and potentially run for office and work on drug addiction. The non-profit is called Our Ohio Renewal.

In January 2017, Vance became a CNN Contributor.
In April 2017, Ron Howard signed on to direct a movie based on Hillbilly Elegy.

In early 2018, Vance was reported to have been considering a bid for U.S. Senate as a Republican.

Personal life
Vance is married to one of his former law school classmates, Usha, an Indian-American woman who is a law clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. The couple has one son, Ewan, born on June 4, 2017.


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 04:26PM) (new)

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Awards:

Goodreads Choice Awards Best Memoir & Autobiography


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 04:58PM) (new)

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Table of Contents

Dedication
Introduction v

Chapter 1 - 11
Chapter 2 - 23
Chapter 3 - 39
Chapter 4 - 47
Chapter 5 - 59
Chapter 6 - 79
Chapter 7 - 99
Chapter 8 - 119
Chapter 9 - 127
Chapter 10 - 152
Chapter 11 - 179
Chapter 12 - 197
Chapter 13 - 208
Chapter 14 - 223
Chapter 15 - 235
Conclusion - 246

Acknowledgement
Notes
About the Author
Credits
Copyright
About the Publisher


message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 05:03PM) (new)

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Syllabus

Week One - April 9th - April 15th

Dedication
Introduction v

Chapter 1 - 11
Chapter 2 - 23
Chapter 3 - 39
Chapter 4 - 47

Week Two - April 16th - April 22nd

Chapter 5 - 59
Chapter 6 - 79
Chapter 7 - 99

Week Three - April 23rd - April 29th

Chapter 8 - 119
Chapter 9 - 127
Chapter 10 - 152
Chapter 11 - 179

Week Four - April 30th - May 6th

Chapter 12 - 197
Chapter 13 - 208
Chapter 14 - 223
Chapter 15 - 235
Conclusion - 246


message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 10:55PM) (new)

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Chapter Overviews and Summaries:


Small coal mining town in impoverished Appalachia, seven family members living in small shack. (Photo by George Skadding/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Dedication:

Dedication by author

Introduction:

Overview by author

Chapter 1:

Chapter 1 begins with the author stating that his “home” was always Jackson, a small town in eastern Kentucky. While he lived primarily in Middletown, OH, Vance spent most of his childhood summers at his great-grandmother’s house in Jackson. Vance, who moved frequently in Ohio, believed that Jackson was the one place that truly belonged to him, his sister, and grandmother, whom he calls Mamaw. He was particularly taken by their stories of the extrajudicial legal system on which hillbilly culture operated. In this system, honor held paramount importance and it was often necessary to defend one’s honor, or that of one’s family, with violence.

Chapter 2:

Chapter 2 describes how Vance’s family, like many others in Appalachia, left their rural homesteads for urban areas following WWII. Vance’s grandparents, Papaw and Mamaw, grew up as neighbors, both members of families with storied hillbilly pasts

Chapter 3:

In Chapter 3, Vance states that Mamaw and Papaw had three children, his uncle Jimmy, his mother Bev, and his aunt Lori, whom the author refers to as Aunt Wee. Beyond this, the family lost nine children to miscarriage, a trauma that Mamaw would endure for the remainder of her life

Chapter 4:

Chapter 4 begins with the author’s birth in 1984. As stated previously, he would always consider Jackson, KY his home, but lived primarily in Middletown, OH. By the time he was born, Middletown was still similar to the city his grandparents had moved to in the 1950s. It was largely centered around the Armco manufacturing plant, with a large portion of its family and culture transplanted from rural Kentucky.

Source: Hillbilly Elegy and Bookrags


message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 10:57PM) (new)

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Discussion Topics:


Laurel Wheeler and family, Buena Vista, Rockbridge County, Virginia
The Appalachian region of the US is a beautiful place with a rich and sometimes tragic history. It is home to so much creativity, and has been a place of devastating poverty. Today, its bands and artists make up an integral part of the underground. So when we came across this collection of images taken in the Appalachians between the early to mid 20th century, we thought many of our readers would appreciate a candid look at the history of this land as it was captured by photographers throughout the decades. All images are via the US Library of Congress.
- Source: Library of Congress and CLVT

1. In his introduction to Hillbilly Elegy, Vance writes, “I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children” (p. 2) and states that for the people of Appalachia—the people with whom he identifies—“poverty is a family tradition” (p. 3). Certainly poverty is a nationwide epidemic, but why does Vance feel the cycle of generational poverty is persistent in the Appalachian region and the cities nearby? Why is the American Dream particularly elusive for the residents of Jackson and Middletown?

2. In what way is the Appalachian culture described in HillBilly Elegy a "culture in trouble"? Do you agree with the author's description of the book's premise:

The book is about what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it. What are your thoughts in general about America and the plight of the poor and poverty in America?

3. J.D Vance makes it clear in the introduction that Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir. How do you think this affects the text? Listen here to the introduction - https://youtu.be/hp5IbYOrdbU

4. Vance spent time in both Middletown, Ohio and Jackson, Kentucky. In what ways might these two regions of Appalachia be similar and different? Do you agree or disagree with Vance’s description of these locations?


message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 10:47PM) (new)

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What are your thoughts on this video:

Learning Appalachia: My Time Teaching in Coal Country | Steven Palmer | TEDxChattanooga

https://youtu.be/tb9SAMDQVeg

Synopsis:

As the coal industry declines in Eastern Kentucky, it becomes more and more evident that rural Appalachia’s most valuable resource is not mineral but mental. We must train and retain the brightest minds to help revitalize this region. Steven Palmer will use his recent experiences teaching in coal country to show the current challenges facing educational equality in Appalachia, as well as how we can keep those students who are creators and innovators from leaving the region. This young-person led revitalization in one of the poorest areas of the U.S. could lead to the largest economic turn-around in American history.

As a proud alumnus of UT Chattanooga, Steven has been privileged to see the growth and transformation of the Scenic City first-hand. Steven served as a Social Issues, Equity, and Diversity Chairperson and Vice President of the UTC student body. After graduating from UTC in 2014, he joined the Teach For America Appalachia Corps and began the most challenging and eye opening journey of his life. Steven has since been teaching high school and middle school English Language Arts and Drama at Harlan Independent in Harlan, KY.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

Some Discussion Topics regarding video:

As you watch the talk above, think about the discussion on how others view Appalachia (the "leave" strategy) and how the speaker's students view their own environment. Try to identify issues Vance discusses in the book that might touch on these same issues. What issues do you agree or disagree with in this video? Now, Imagine you have been asked to come speak to this class. How would you address some of their issues? What questions do you think they might ask you? What questions would you

Source: Youtube and BGSU


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 11:03PM) (new)

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CHAPTER 1


Unemployed miner standing with his family, who live on Social Security, on porch or their small home re: poverty in Appalachia. 1964

• What is Jackson, Kentucky like? Why does Vance have such an affection for the place?

• Class disloyalty is something Vance’s grandmother, Mamaw, dislikes. How does she define class disloyalty?

• Why does Vance revere the Blanton men? What are they like, and why does Vance nd them so appealing?

• What are some of the contradictions apparent in Jackson, Kentucky? How do these contradictions shape the town?

CHAPTER 2


Small coal mining town in impoverished Appalachia, seven family members living in small shack. 1953

• What are Vance’s grandparents, Mamaw and Papaw, like?

• How did Vance’s grandparents get to Ohio? What are the two versions of the story of how and why they moved out of Kentucky?

• In this chapter, we learn about the migration of people out of Appalachia in search of jobs. What does this migration do for communities?

• In what ways to Vance’s grandparents adapt, and not adapt, to their new life in Ohio? Do they see these changes positively or negatively?

CHAPTER 3


The Faust family, Anderson County, E. Tenn. [Mountain man and 2 women in front of house] Date Created/Published: c1910

• What are the ways in which Mamaw and Papaw lead two lives? Why is there such a split?

• In addition to class disloyalty, Mamaw also strongly dislikes disloyalty as a more general practice. Why does she dislike it so much? Or, conversely, why does she think loyalty is so important?

• In what ways do Mamaw and Papaw try to correct past mistakes they made? Do you think they end up correcting them?

• Are you surprised at the kinds of violence that Vance encounters at home? Do you think the family themselves consider some of their behaviors violent?

CHAPTER 4


Children had few toys / Photo by Wm. A. Barnhill, Gamaliel, Ark.
Creator(s): Barnhill, Wm. A. , photographer
Date Created/Published: [between 1914 and 1917]


• Compared to Jackson, Kentucky what is Middletown, Ohio like? In what ways is it similar? And in what ways is it different?

• Why did Middletown experience an economic decline?

• What are some ways in which there are con icts in attitudes towards work among the people of Middletown?

• If the American Dream does require forward momentum, could the people of Middletown achieve it?


message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
We will be opening this book discussion on April 9th.

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us why this book interested you and where you are from - city/state (general area) or country.
We love to know where all of our global members are from who are reading and discussing a book with us. It is a lot of fun.

2) Let us know how you are enjoying the book and your first impressions. Remember we are only reading Chapters One through Chapter Four this week. We will not have to use the spoiler html as long as you stay within the pages assigned with each week of the discussion.


message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
All, I have set up the thread so that we can begin discussion on April 9th - remember this is a single thread discussion so you must be careful about spoilers. We do not have this problem on a multi thread discussion.

However for my benefit and for everybody else's I am changing things a bit. If you are posting during the week of the reading schedule and you are only posting information about that week's reading and not going ahead - then you do not have to use the spoiler html. However, if you go ahead of the weekly reading and want to post ahead about some topic or page or quote that we have not been assigned yet and have not read - you are bound to use the spoiler html with the header or your post will be moved to the spoiler glossary thread.

At any time you can post on the spoiler glossary thread but on this discussion thread we are posting and staying with the assignments and not getting ahead if in fact you do not want to be bound to use the spoiler html.

So it is up to you. If you stay with the assignments and do not post about something ahead that is coming up - you do not have to use the spoiler html but if you don't and you get ahead or you want to talk about something expansive then you MUST use the spoiler html or post it on the glossary spoiler thread.


message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Those of you who are going to read Hillbilly Elegy. Use the spoiler html if you plan to post about pages ahead of the weekly discussion because this is a single thread discussion.

1. Read messages (12, 13, 14, 15, 16); those messages show you the rules for the BOTM discussion and how to do the spoiler html.

2. Messages and actually show you the spoiler html code. Use it on this thread if you plan to go ahead of the weekly assigned reading or if you become more expansive. You can post expansive material on the glossary thread with spoiler html but here you must use the spoiler html if you get ahead or become too expansive.

3. Where is the Table of Contents and the Weekly Reading Assignments? - for this selection - check message 6 for the table of contents and message 7 for the syllabi for all four weeks - so that your reading schedule matches the assigned reading for that week.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Remember the following:

Everyone is welcome but make sure to use the goodreads spoiler function if you get ahead of the assigned weekly pages.

If you come to the discussion after folks have finished reading it, please feel free to post your comments as we will always come back to the thread to discuss the book.

The rules

You must follow the rules of the History Book Club and also:

First rule of Book of the Month discussions:
Respect other people's opinions, no matter how controversial you think they may be.

Second rule of Book of the Month discussions:
Always, always Chapter/page mark and spoiler alert your posts if you are discussing parts of the book that are ahead of the pages assigned or if you have become expansive it your topics.

To do these spoilers, follows these easy steps:

Step 1. enclose the word spoiler in forward and back arrows; < >

Step 2. write your spoiler comments in

Step 3. enclose the word /spoiler in arrows as above, BUT NOTE the forward slash in front of the word. You must put that forward slash in.

Your spoiler should appear like this:
(view spoiler)

And please mark your spoiler clearly like this:

State a Chapter and page if you can.
EG: Chapter 24, page 154

Or say Up to Chapter *___ (*insert chapter number) if your comment is more broad and not from a single chapter.

Chapter 1, p. 23
(view spoiler)

If you are raising a question/issue for the group about the book, you don't need to put that in a spoiler, but if you are citing something specific, it might be good to use a spoiler.

By using spoilers, you don't ruin the experience of someone who is reading slower or started later or is not reading the assigned pages.

Thanks.


message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
All, we do not have to do citations regarding the book or the author being discussed during the book discussion on these discussion threads - nor do we have to cite any personage in the book being discussed while on the discussion threads related to this book.

However if we discuss folks outside the scope of the book or another book is cited which is not the book and author discussed then we do have to do that citation according to our citation rules. That makes it easier to not disrupt the discussion.

You can copy and paste below to get your spoiler right:

You can copy and paste below to get your spoiler right:

(view spoiler)


message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread folks and is the non spoiler thread.

The other thread is the glossary which is the spoiler thread.


message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 09, 2018 11:20PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Be sure to remember that on this thread for this week you cannot discuss anything beyond the end of chapter four without spoilers. Additionally for this week if you want to go beyond that page - you must post your comments in the glossary thread for this book.

Let us kick this off by introducing yourself (tell us where you are from - city/state (general location) and country - we are a global community and this is fun for all of us) and tell us why this book interested you and why you wanted to read and discuss it. You can call yourself your avatar name if you like - that is up to you - but give us a general location where you are from so we can all feel united across this big world of ours.

Also if you have begun Chapter One - what are your initial impressions?

My name is Bentley and I am from the Metro NYC area and I am very interested in reading this book because without being political - I wanted to understand - what happened. This book also appeals to me because I believe that we are all connected on this planet and what happens in Appalachia or in Ohio matters to all of us; and all of us will eventually see the impact of poverty even though we may live in vastly different communities on the East Coast or in another part of the world. Desperation and poverty have no boundaries - domestically or globally. The human connection knows no bounds.

Let us introduce ourselves and get this discussion started.


message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
We also have a glossary where I will be adding ancillary material, books, articles, videos, podcasts and the like about our reading selection. That is also the spoiler thread. The discussion thread is the non spoiler one.

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 20: by elin (last edited Apr 10, 2018 09:39AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

elin (elinsbooks) My name is Elin and I'm from western Pennsylvania, a small town no one has ever heard of, where coal used to be king. While I'm a Yankee, where I'm from has more in common with eastern Kentucky than the eastern part of my own state, so this book seemed like it would explain a bit of my world to the rest of the world. I hoped anyway. Too often the narrative of Appalachia is represented by poor, white, and backward people who don't want outsiders coming in and telling them what to do and while that's partially true, as someone who lives in Appalachia, changes are happening for the good and it's not as homogeneous as you'd think.

This is the second time I'm reading this book. I read it as soon as it hit shelves and was disappointed. Perhaps I'd read too much hype and was hoping that someone from the inside would get it and not just spread the narrative. I was wrong.

I was equally disappointed with

White Trash The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg by Nancy Isenberg Nancy Isenberg

because I often feel that people from outside the region have a feeling as though they're superior to mountain folk. So I'm hoping to get more insight from people during this second reading or a differing opinion that will cause me to challenge my own thoughts.

I'll also be reading

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte by Elizabeth Catte (no photo)

at the same time. That could make for an interesting follow-up to this book, offering, again I'm hoping, a different, less gloom and doom, perspective.


message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 10, 2018 08:26AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Elin - thank you so much for your wonderful post and introduction. I think all of us look forward to reading Hillbilly Elegy and to the discussion - I think sometimes it is hard for a person who actually lives in an area to read about how others interpret the area and its issues/problems/challenges which I hope we will discuss here.

I am glad that you are rereading the book with us and please jump into the discussion questions.

When citing other books here on this thread - which are not the book we are discussing or mentioned on the pages of the book - we must cite these books by adding the bookcover, the author's photo and the author's link. You can always add them at the bottom of your comment box. Once you edit your post - I will delete this paragraph. When the author's photo is not available - we place (no photo) at the end.

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte by Elizabeth Catte (no photo)

White Trash The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg by Nancy Isenberg Nancy Isenberg

We always tell new readers to be careful not to add any spoilers because this is a non spoiler thread. The glossary thread is not - that is a spoiler thread and you can discuss the book as a whole there - but for this thread - right now the assignment is only through the first four chapters. Messages 9 and 11 have a great many questions you can begin to dive into.


message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 10, 2018 08:32AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Here is the author - TED - your thoughts:

America's forgotten working class | J.D. Vance


J.D. Vance grew up in a small, poor city in the Rust Belt of southern Ohio, where he had a front-row seat to many of the social ills plaguing America: a heroin epidemic, failing schools, families torn apart by divorce and sometimes violence.

In a searching talk that will echo throughout the country's working-class towns, the author details what the loss of the American Dream feels like and raises an important question that everyone from community leaders to policy makers needs to ask: How can we help kids from America's forgotten places break free from hopelessness and live better lives?

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and much more.
Find closed captions and translated subtitles in many languages at http://www.ted.com/translate

Link: https://youtu.be/iEy-xTbcr2A

Source: Youtube

Discussion Topic:

How can we help kids from America's forgotten places break free from hopelessness and live better lives?


message 23: by elin (new) - rated it 1 star

elin (elinsbooks) Bentley wrote: "Elin - thank you so much for your wonderful post and introduction. I think all of us look forward to reading Hillbilly Elegy and to the discussion - I think sometimes it is hard for a person who ac..."

Bentley, thanks for cleaning up my post. I forgot the rules. It's been a while since I've had time to participate. Looking forward to this one. Appalachia is a passion of mine and you are right, it is hard to read an interpretation, although I am glad that more voices from the mountain are being brought in. Most of the people I've discussed the book with are also from the area, so it will be great to have other perspectives brought into my own thoughts.


message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
For sure Elin and we are glad to have you as a part of this conversation. Just jump right in at any time.

You did pretty well with the edits - just add the author's link after the photo for the White Trash book and then I can delete my assists.


message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 10, 2018 09:58AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Tanya - your post is a spoiler. I had to move it to the spoiler thread. Folks - if you have read the book - please let us know at the end of the discussion how you liked it. Welcome though and we are delighted to have you with us but we do not want to hurt the reading experience for those folks just starting out.

Just participate on the subjects that we are reading together - up through the end of four and if you have all encompassing comments - place them in the glossary thread for now. Thanks.

Just as an FYI - what makes it fun about a group read is that we read and discuss certain segments of the book together - this week's assignment is for the first four chapters. Just comment on any of the discussion topics posted or discuss anything in the Dedication, or Chapters One, Two, Three and Four.


message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Everyone - one thing that everybody can do right away is to introduce themselves and let us know why you wanted to read this book.


message 27: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 117 comments Hi. I'm Jim. I live in Canada, where we regularly compare ourselves to Americans and are closely interconnected culturally and economically.

Starting at least since the 2016 U.S. election campaign, if not long before, there seem to be some strong and popular perspectives that I truly don't understand --- or worse, about which I'm making unwarranted assumptions. My interest in this book is largely to help better understand those perspectives.


message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 10, 2018 01:10PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Jim - you are making me laugh - you are Americans - we are part of North America if you live on this continent. Right?

Canadians are our friends and vice versa - and you are right - some sort of strangeness has taken over and I am trying myself to understand the "what happened" - ness of it all.

Welcome to the read and the conversation. Dig right in with the discussion topics.


message 29: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 11, 2018 09:44AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
We should remember that Appalachia is quite beautiful too. And it would be good for us to know what is the story of the migration of the people who ended up here?





The Appalachians Part 1
https://youtu.be/L8cu27x68Eg

The Appalachians Part 2
https://youtu.be/wn7qNeKkdHo

The Appalachians Part 3
https://youtu.be/1yQU8hmvYmM

The Appalachians Part 4
https://youtu.be/lwy_9UZMGFQ

Source: Youtube


message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Members:

a) Post a brief intro

b) Dive in and tackle some of the discussion questions to get the conversation going - posts 9, 10, 11, 22

c) Read only through the end of Chapter Four this week. Keep with the group and do not go ahead - just read another book for awhile until next week's assignment.

There are no right or wrong answers - just folks expressing their opinions about what they have read.


message 31: by Paula (new) - added it

Paula S (paula_s) | 5 comments Hi, my name is Paula and I'm from Sweden. I already had this book on my TBR since it was on Bill Gates' recommended reading list last summer (although I didn't read it then). Mostly I'm curious about a region and a lifestyle I don't know a lot about.


message 32: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Paula glad to have you with us all the way from Sweden. I think many of us (even state side) have the same curiosity to understand more. Welcome.


Sandi Breland | 2 comments Hi, My name is Sandi and I am from Atlanta. I love the Appalachian states of TN, KY, WV and NC. I've lived in TN (my favorite), KY and NC. I would love to live in WV. However, I did most of my going up in central FL. These states are stunningly beautiful with fabulous state parks and gorgeous water falls. In chapter 1, Mountain Dew mouth is discussed. I vividly remember Diane Sawyer (KY is her home state) doing "Children of the Mountains" and it is this piece that the author is referring to. I am quite interested in the people and culture and read much about Appalachia. As for helping these kids have better lives, I want to think on it more. I'll get back to you on it.


message 34: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 11, 2018 02:20PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Welcome welcome Sandi from Atlanta, Georgia - a beautiful state where the Masters were just recently played. Are you near Augusta?

You are so right - we cannot and should not forget how beautiful these places are.

I think there are many issues to discuss in the book and I hope that all children have better lives no matter where they are from including Appalachia. But everybody's input is appreciated and there are no right or wrong answers here.

I do hope that Appalachia can preserve the good and improve what is lacking.

This should be an informative and thought provoking read and discussion.


Kelly (kmkell84) | 3 comments Hello, my name is Kelly and I am in Sacramento, California.

Like many on this thread, I am interested in reading this book to gain a better understanding on differing cultural perspectives. My father was from Virginia, I am not sure if that is technically "Appalachia" or not, but he grew up very poor and joined the armed services for the opportunity of a better life. I guess I am hoping the book might give me an idea of the culture that he grew up in.


message 36: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Very good Kelly and welcome to you from sunny California. - I hope you will share what your impressions are of the book and whether you can connect it to anything that your father might have shared with you.

I think the armed services has been an opportunity for many young men.


Kaleen | 25 comments Hi my name is Kaleen and I am from Sarasota, Florida. I grew up in the sunshine state, but have always loved the Appalachia region. My parents live part of the year in Cookeville, Tennessee, so I love going up their to get a feel for the area. In some ways it is a different culture from my own. I've had this book on my TBR for awhile and I'm eager to dive in and hear what others think.


message 38: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Kaleen - welcome - we are so happy to have you join us for this discussion from Florida - I imagine that Florida is having much warmer weather that we have been having in the Metro NYC area - so enjoy that sunshine. That is nice that your parents and you have a sense of the area that we will be discussing. Please take a look at the discussion questions for Chapters 1 through 4 and dive right in.


Jerome (tnjed01) | 23 comments Hi, I'm Jerome. I live in Northeast Tennessee, lived here over 25 years, but still feel like an outsider in many ways. I was born in West Virginia, the only state where every county is considered part of the Appalachian region. When I was one year old, we moved from the rolling hills of the eastern panhandle on the Maryland border, so I have no memories. We moved to Huntington, a small city that to my mind is mainly known for Marshall University, but also used to have many glass manufacturers in that area. We moved when I was 10 years old out of Appalachia to coastal North Carolina. I do not feel strongly Appalachian because my father grew up in New York City and my mother grew up in Memphis. Her father, however, grew up on a small farm outside Chattanooga, and we visited relatives there.

Now I live in a city where there is a University offering degree programs in Appalachian Studies. I married a woman born and raised here who obtained two Master's degrees pursuing 2 career paths. I studied at a college outside of Charlotte, as well as education and training in Nashville, Germany, and Boston

All that being said, and for other reasons, I believe that I am very close to Appalachia, but not of it. I was interested in the book because of the hype it received during the election and the attempt to understand "what happened".

My bias before completing the book, having not read ahead, is that no book can describe the diversity of the region known as Appalachia and its people, and I hope that it will not be used to further negative stereotypes. I attended public school in West Virginia and North Carolina and I was well prepared for private colleges and universities.

I'll dig into your questions in later posts. They are very good questions.

Without meaning to put anyone on the defensive, I know that many in this area recall the Life magazine photo spread in the 60s and the emphasis on poor people in shacks and beautiful mountain scenery. This link from National Geographic makes that point and attempts to widen the lens somewhat.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/ph...

Many songs also seem to reflect the pride of place and people in the face of perceived persecution and denigration.

There are important relationships to examine between the War on Poverty as addressed by Johnson, the Kennedys, and Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement , and the current interest in income inequality as compared to William Barber today with his "Poor People's Campaign" and "Moral Movement". The former seemed to have had a lasting impact on Appalachia, the latter has not yet done so.


message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 13, 2018 04:26AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
What an exceptional post Jerome - outstanding.

I guess you kind of feel that you have a foot in one camp - "sort of" but most of you feels like you belong somewhere else. I think it is sort of like my eating Italian food at any restaurant after eating my grandmother's insanely delicious home made versions and sauce. You believe that nobody can do it like your grandmother and nobody has the secret ingredients so you know that you are right off the bat going to think that nothing will measure up. And of course you are usually right.

I do not know if Vance is going to hit the mark or not. And frankly I do not think that my opinion matters in this - I think the opinion that matters would be the people who live there and know what they are up against or not.

You are right - there are a lot of stereotypes and many are unfair. Some of these journalist, photographers, do-gooders believe that they are helping people by shining a light on their situation; but sometimes they are only increasing the uncertainty of any successful programs taking shape.

I certainly do not know the answers; but I think that the Kennedys, King and Johnson may have had some heart felt ideas which they wanted to try. I think you are right - great people can grow up anywhere - it is not the place that makes them great. In fact, adversity can actually strengthen their resolve. Vance made it to Yale and you are certainly doing very well.

I guess the book is for the folks who just do not know what to do and haven't found that magic bullet yet - if there is one. Luck, fate and circumstances sometimes have their way.

By the way welcome to the conversation and thank you for posting. Please do it many times again and do try your hand at the discussion questions.


message 41: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Folks - just remember our previous post.

Members:

a) Post a brief intro

b) Dive in and tackle some of the discussion questions to get the conversation going - posts 9, 10, 11, 22

c) Read only through the end of Chapter Four this week. Keep with the group and do not go ahead - just read another book for awhile until next week's assignment.

There are no right or wrong answers - just folks expressing their opinions about what they have read. Just post and get started.


Harmke Hi everyone, I'm Harmke, from the Netherlands. I was interested in this book because almost every review stated that it 'explained what happened to make people vote for Trump'. So I was interested in what an insider's view on all this is.

7 years ago, we drove the 'Blue Ridge Parkway' and I loved the area: it has an amazing beauty and peace. So sad to know that the people living there are facing so many problems.

I read the book last February. I will get back on the questions later, but I am already enjoying everyone's posts and views here.


message 43: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Welcome Harmke from the Netherlands - we are delighted to see you again. I think your reason and my reason are exactly the same. I have to ask myself every day - What Happened? (lol).

I would love to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway - it must have been beautiful. It is sad to think that such a beautiful place which gives all of us so much joy has folks living right there who are struggling to get by.

Yes, please dive into the questions so we can start getting the conversation going and be careful of spoilers.

So glad to have you.


message 44: by Jerome (last edited Apr 13, 2018 06:33PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jerome (tnjed01) | 23 comments Thanks, Bentley, for the kind words, and the work you do on this forum. It's hard to believe you're actually one person!

Digging into the questions (message 9)

Overall, and particularly in terms of income inequality, I think Appalachia has been the canary in the coal mine for quite some time. The natural resources have been plundered and exploited, and while they did provide good paying jobs for some, companies often exploited workers as well as the land.

John Prine just put out his first release in 13 years. His song, Paradise, from his first album in the 70s, is probably familiar to those interested in this book, but this old footage of Prine and John Burns playing on the back stoop of his home place is great because of the introduction.

Paradise

Prine and the song depict the nostalgia for youth, innocence, adventure, nature, family, and the sense of belonging and place that Vance associates with Jackson, KY.

The cycle of intergenerational poverty is persistent because of the combination of economic distress, unemployment, loss of industry, changes in agriculture, and lack of mobility. The Economic Innovation Group has a recent 2016 report, "Is the American Dream Live or Dead? It Depends on Where You Look".

For the past 20 years, we have also been ravaged by the opioid crisis. But that is another story for another chapter....


message 45: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 13, 2018 06:47PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Jerome you are making me laugh - it is true I am one person (smile) - my admins and mods help too.

Yes, some of the pictures of the exploitation of that area just is not right.

Pretty sad situation that you have described and it is probably why these areas had their backs against a wall.

He is such a great musician and I listened to the song. He basically said he use to go back and forth from where he lived. But he said something about someone shutting down the town - I thought he said Peabody. Can you imagine somebody shutting down the town where you lived?

I think out of desperation and depression - the opioid situation takes root.


message 46: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim | 117 comments Thanks Jerome for the song. It's a story that's too common -- people living in decline after the factory or mill or mine close down. It makes me think of Billy Joel's "Allentown" my link text , the nightmare future in "It's a Wonderful Life" my link text and for that matter the many Indigenous communities in Canada (and elsewhere) that seem trapped in a cycle of poverty. How do you turn that around?

There are certainly different ideas about the roots of those problems and how to improve local economies. One thing I find interesting in Hillbilly Elegy is the focus on culture, mindset and parenting. It's potentially inflammatory, but I'm impressed by how Mr. Vance presents it in a thoughtful, candid, personal way. That's a welcome change from what's often an extremely polarized conversation with a lot of shouting!


Mary Ellen | 184 comments Hi, this is Mary Ellen. I live in New Haven, CT, about 20 minutes from the house where I grew up, so Appalachia is "foreign country" in many ways.

The first person I knew, who grew up in Appalachia, was a 2nd-generation Lebanese-American - he explained that the mountainous terrain was comfortingly familiar to his grandparents and other Lebanese who settled in the area (in West Virginia). So that gave me an idea that it was a bit more diverse than the stereotypical outsiders' view of a land of Scotch-Irish descendants feuding and making moonshine.

I read this book last fall and no longer have it in my possession so cannot remember what I read in which chapter! I wonder if his strong sense of "home" for a place where he spent relatively little time, came from the rootedness of his family in that house - contrast with his much less settled life with his mother.

Mountains symbolize stability in a number of cultures - "the everlasting hills"- and stability was in short supply otherwise in his life and that of the people around him. In less than two generations, Middletown went from being the place of opportunity for Appalachian migrants like his grandparents, to part of the "Rust Belt." The rapid change and the devastating effects on individuals/families who can't keep up is reminiscent of other big economic shifts - such as the enclosure movement in England and elsewhere, and of course, the Industrial Revolution. Great progress for many, but terrible for those whose way of life is snatched away from them.


Jerome (tnjed01) | 23 comments Bentley wrote: "CHAPTER 1

Unemployed miner standing with his family, who live on Social Security, on porch or their small home re: poverty in Appalachia. 1964

• What is Jackson, Kentucky like? Why does Vance hav..."


As my last post implied, Vance literally views the area surrounding Vance as paradise for a child (Ch. 1 p. 13), just like John Prine felt about Muhlenberg County. He feels the place "belonged" to him, and he belonged to it. The mountains are a place of nature, adventure and innocence, just like I remember the trails, creeks, and caves of my youth, catching a king snake, crossing fallen trees over a creek, wondering who or what had used the caves for shelter in the past, and exploring without any parental supervision.

Mamaw Blanton defined class disloyalty as "the poor stealing from the poor" and "there is nothing lower" (Ch. 1, p. 16). In my opinion Mamaw was what we now call "woke", in that poor people expect to be exploited by the rich, but as the poor can only fight back through collective action that relies on loyalty to one's class, poor stealing from poor was a core betrayal. The exploiting class would encourage immigration to keep labor costs low and encourage this intra-class conflict. There is for example a long history of conflict between union and non-union mine workers. I just came across a Master's thesis about mine workers and sprirituality titled, "The Devil was the first scab" by Chelsie Fitzwater from Marshall University. Unfortunately, this has also led to racist and anti-immigration attitudes due to intra-class conflict.

Vance revered the Blanton men because they were "enforcers of hillbilly justice". Rural Appalachians were by nature independent and were creative in taking care of their own needs due to the isolation of the mountains, but this could also lead to managing all their own needs, including managing and enforcing their own justice, regardless if that meant going outside the law to enforce a higher "moral code".

Moral codes are essential to a functioning society, agreed upon standards of behavior place limits on behavior and help to either avoid or address conflict.

One of the travesties mentioned in Chapter 1 is the contradiction between the beautiful environment and the harshness of some of its people. He goes on to describe the ravages of drug abuse in the community. It is my belief that one of the reasons for the popularity of zombies in American pop culture now is that drug use has turned a large number of Americans into zombies, robbing people of their spiritual and moral connectedness, and leading them to simply struggle to feed their brains drugs over and over to numb the pain of the struggles that they face.


message 49: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 14, 2018 08:54PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Thank you Jerome for jumping right in and answering the discussion questions from your perspective. That is how we get the conversation started.

I see the concept of loyalty to one's class as a dangerous proposition for our country in many ways like the rich taking care of the rich and not caring about the poor. It is a vicious circle. But I can see why this happened - who else cared about them.

What the founding fathers felt was that we need to watch out for those who cannot watch out for themselves. Of course, they seemed to turn a blind eye towards slavery. I think unfortunately we hear the echoes of the same attitudes today about immigration and so many other things. I think your belief about the drug use today is spot on. In some ways sadly they are self medicating which is never good.


message 50: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Mary Ellen - an excellent post - and I love the symbolization of the mountains to stability. Their grounding.

Yes, I agree that their world was turned upside down and survival is the most basic instinct. You cannot think about too many other things if you are short on food and the basic essentials in life for yourself and your family.


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