Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy by et al.

I had never heard of Hillbilly Elegy.  (I must have been living under a rock or something.)  When Appalachian Reckoning showed up on my Netgalley list, I was instantly interested.  The subject matter is incredibly close to my heart.  I looked up Hillbilly Elegy and read some synopses.  I was aggravated.  My family made the same diaspora from Appalachia to the Rust Belt during the Great Depression.  They moved into the very town Vance worked his way out of.  They lead incredibly similar lives, but we came to very different conclusions on how to handle our situations.

I was very interested to read responses from others who live in the same region.  Were others as offended with Vance's representation as I was, or did I stand alone?  Well, honestly, I got a little more than I bargained for in Appalachian Reckoning.  The first half of the book is a collection of response essays of an academic nature.  The second half is more personal responses in all kinds of literary formats.

The high brow academic section was exhaustive to read.  Lots of citations and little heart.  While it was more than I was looking to read at the time, it was exactly as to be expected with a collection of academic essays.  I was more impressed with the second half of the book.  All in all, various authors made excellent points for and against the concepts Vance preaches to his readers. 

The appeal of reading the responses from people who come from the same place and have led similar lives is just human nature.  That sense of connectivity is something we all seek.  I was drawn to this collection by its subject and relativity to my life.  I kept reading because of the social questions it raised and the intellectual conversation it sparked. 

My brain needed a good workout after lots of fiction reading.  Appalachian Reckoning provided.  This book certainly isn't for everyone, but it should make everyone who takes the time to read it think a great deal on how human nature works.

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