Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy
Session Abstract or Summary
With hundreds of thousands of copies sold, a Ron Howard movie in the works, and the rise of its author as a media personality, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis has defined Appalachia for much of the nation. What about Hillbilly Elegy accounts for this explosion of interest during this period of political turmoil? Why have its ideas raised so much controversy? And how can debates about the book catalyze new, more inclusive political agendas for the region’s future? The papers and creative works presented from the editors of and some of the contributors to the new book Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy offer a retort, at turns rigorous, critical, angry, and hopeful, to the long shadow Hillbilly Elegy has cast over the region and its imagining. Complicating simplistic visions that associate the region almost exclusively with death and decay, Appalachian Reckoning makes clear Appalachia’s intellectual vitality, spiritual richness, and progressive possibilities. The panelists hope to prioritize active audience participation and robust discussion following their readings and reflections.
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Anthony Harkins is Associate Professor of History at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. He is the co-editor of Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy (West Virginia Press, 2019) and author of Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon (Oxford University Press, 2004).
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T. R. C. Hutton is senior lecturer and university historian in the Department of History of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the author of Bloody Breathitt: Politics & Violence in the Appalachian South (University Press of Kentucky, 2013).
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Kirstin L. Squint is Associate Professor of English at High Point University where she teaches classes in US multiethnic literatures. She is the author of LeAnne Howe at the Intersections of Southern and Native American Literature (LSU Press, 2018) and a coeditor of the in-progress collection Swamp Souths: Literary and Cultural Ecologies.
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Jim Minick is Assistant Professor at Augusta University and Core Faculty in Converse College’s low-residency MFA program. He is the author of five books, including Fire Is Your Water, a debut novel released in 2017. His memoir, The Blueberry Years, won of the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association.
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Dwight B. Billings is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Appalachian Studies at the University of Kentucky and past president of the Appalachian Studies Association. He is coauthor, with Kathleen Blee, of The Road to Poverty: The Making of Wealth and Hardship in Appalachia (Cambridge, 2000), and coeditor (with Gurney Norman and Katherine Ledford) of Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes (Kentucky, 2000) and (with Ann Kingsolver) Appalachia in Regional Context: Place Matters (Kentucky, 2018).
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Crystal Good is an advocate, entrepreneur, and writer poet who uses poetry and performance to explore the landscape of West Virginia/Appalachia as a lens into the multi-universe. She is a member of the Affrilachian Poets and an Irene McKinney Scholar and performs with Heroes Are Gang Leaders, a New York–based Free/Avant-Garde experimental improvisation jazz ensemble.