by Ivy Brashear in the Huffington Post:
“Elegy” has no class, no heart, and no warmth. It’s a poorly written appropriation of Appalachian stereotypes that presents us as a people who aren’t worthy of anything but derision and pity, and who cannot be helped because we refuse to help ourselves. It ignores the systemic capitalist oppression that encourages persistent poverty. It assumes there is some special sect of the working class that is especially dedicated to white people. It is rife with fragile masculinity that actively diminishes the critical role that Appalachian women play in the culture, the resistance, in the workforce, and in the new economy.
I come from dignity and grace and laughter and joy, and while I do not discount the difficult childhood that Vance lived through and his own lived experience, “Hillbilly Elegy” erases and erodes any Appalachian experience outside his own non-Appalachian experience by reinforcing repeatedly that Appalachian “hillbilly” culture is somehow deficient and morally decrepit, and that it is something to be overcome.
Misrepresentation of Appalachia matters for several reasons. It obscures and intentionally eclipses the pride and dignity of being Appalachian. It has told us we should be ashamed of who we are, where we come from, and the people in our blood. It says to us that we aren’t worthy or deserving of anything more than being the butt of a joke. It hits us hard in our guts because the truth is way more complicated and way more real, and nobody likes tales to be carried about them.
"‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Is Going To Be A Movie, But It Shouldn’t Be Your Definitive Guide To The Rural Poor"
by Jason Tabrys in Uproxx:
But while the responsibility for those simplifications belongs to Vance, there’s an equally concerning byproduct of Hillbilly Elegy‘s popularity that falls squarely on the reader: the ease with which some people can develop a falsely complete understanding when it comes to big issues like rural poverty, addiction, and class warfare. We read a book, see a movie, TV show, or documentary, and feel so flush and empowered by the gift of newfound knowledge that we feel as though we can forgo further research and speak with authority instead of humble curiosity. It’s a problem that continues to grow thanks to the widespread need to offer an opinion on all things that toddle past our faces and our outright fear of the term “I don’t know.”
"Stereotyping Appalachians Feeds Only the Coal Industry"
by Nick Mullins in YES! Magazine:
By co-opting Appalachian values, the coal industry has elbowed itself to the center of our region’s cultural identity. . . .
Meanwhile, media misrepresentations have fueled negative stereotypes held by urban populations. In many ways, this has put us on the defensive, pushing Appalachians to seek out and attack the shortcomings of our city counterparts. . . .
The Confederate flags, Trump signs, and pro-coal stickers I see displayed throughout Appalachia are not as much the result of deep-rooted racism and bigotry as many would like to believe. They are often symbols of defense against a world that views us as lesser people. They are symbols given to us by politicians and corporations that have learned to speak our language, and they throw gasoline on the fiery dissent many feel toward longstanding urban ridicule.