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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’ 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’s recent fascination with the people and problems of the region. The book analyzes trends in contemporary writing on Appalachia, presents a brief history of Appalachia with an eye toward unpacking Appalachian stereotypes, and provides examples of writing, art, and policy created by Appalachians as opposed to for Appalachians. The book offers a must-needed insider’s perspective on the region.


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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’ 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’s recent fascination with the people and problems of the region. The book analyzes trends in contemporary writing on Appalachia, presents a brief history of Appalachia with an eye toward unpacking Appalachian stereotypes, and provides examples of writing, art, and policy created by Appalachians as opposed to for Appalachians. The book offers a must-needed insider’s perspective on the region.

30 review for What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    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 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 Hispanics. And not all those who live there come from dysfunctional families, nor are they all violent and ignorant, and while he may not have meant to imply these things, it felt like he did, and there is enough in novels and other books on Appalachia that imply this as well. People love to think of Hillbillies as all white ignorant inbreeds who are moonshiners. My best friend was raised in the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian Mountains. She is a Native Indian and is intelligent. She isn’t inbred either. I feel that I am always learning something new from her. She is not your stereotypical Appalachian but knows that she was really fortunate to have grown up in the Cumberland, and I wish I had as well. My friend and I both help out at the homeless shelter, and some of the Christians there, like Vance, think that the people are homeless because they don’t have Christ. I have talked with the homeless and most are Christians. One of them can even sing Christian songs in Cherokee, which sound beautiful in another language. I also think that many Christians believe that the homeless, if they confess Christ, are just not the right kind of Christians because they don’t go to their church, but if they did and they didn’t find jobs, well, then perhaps they really are not Christians after all, because Jesus said that God takes care of his own. Last year I met my friend’s relatives at a large reunion that was held in our town. They came from all over the country. The people were really nice, although religious, yet that gave them a nice kind of flavor that I would pull away from if I had to be around them daily but only because I have my own beliefs and don’t like people trying to save me from them. But they were the “hillbillies” that Vance never talked about, or if he did, they were the ones he would have loved, and he would have set them up as examples of what wonders Christianity can do, and sometimes it can. So, their kids were really nice and helpful and got up to take away our plates without even being asked. They actually wanted to help. Some would say that it was their religion that made them this way, but then I have been around atheist, Buddhist, and Hindu families that had wonderful families, but it just goes to show that not all hillbillies have dysfunctional families, or to others it just shows God’s wisdom. But who knows, in time, some of these kids at this reunion may grow up to be bootleggers and gun toting mamas. Religion can do that to some people. Turning to drugs: Do the Appalachians have the worse drug problems in the U.S. No. We in Cherokee County just learned that we do, and here I thought we only had a meth problem. Anyway, I haven’t noticed it. As for the opioid addiction, most people take pain killers because they are in pain, and if those drugs are taken away, you might find just as many deaths as you have now from opioid deaths, only now by suicide. I had a friend back in California, whose husband shot himself due to his pain, but he lived, and the story of his shooting was too horrible, so I won’t go into detail as she had with me, or maybe I should so you will understand. No, I won’t, but I will say that their two year old was there to see it all. Her husband had been on the pain killer morphine, but it didn’t work; pain killers never do completely, and so he couldn’t take any more pain. I feel that society tends to hook onto a problem and then tries to cure it in the wrong manner, because now this is causing doctors to fear prescribing them to anyone. And like my friend’s husband… If Vance had his way no one would probably take pain killers, welfare would end and people would just have to figure out how to get by on their own. Then like during the Depression, they would be dying on the streets, but it would be their own fault. Listening to Vance expose this family’s dirty laundry to the world really bothered me, which is why when I did a review of his book I put it into poetry, and put him down in the language of his own people, language I grew up with since I had friends who were from Arkansas. And, no, it doesn’t matter to me that he claims to love his grandmother. So let’s look at how Vance made it to where he is today: He would have starved to death if his grandmother hadn’t had welfare. Then he went into the military, and with his government GI bill, he went to college. It was okay for him to take government money, but maybe he thought it was okay because he was going to make something of himself, and in the latter case the military owed him something. And now he is a far right Christian/Republican. Okay, I won’t go there. I have said enough here. He also became a lawyer, you know, those people that are hated by those who voted for the man on the hill, Swampman. I guess I just can’t help myself here. But it must be remembered, not every one is born with the same kind of drive or the same kind of ability as Vance—not everyone is a jerk. Many people just desire to work, to provide for their families, and while the coal miners finally began getting good pay, that didn’t last, much of that is history because the coal jobs were almost gone when Vance wrote his book. And if anyone says that they now have factories that no one wishes to work at, well, who were those men at Swampman’s rallies that wanted work so bad? Anyway, when people are out of work they don’t feel good about themselves, and when they don’t feel good about themselves they can turn to alcohol or drugs and this makes it hard for anyone to be able to lift themselves up by getting a job. Elizabeth Catte sees a different Appalachia where she lives. She sees activists who, by the way, live there and are not outside agitators, are fighting against the coal companies, yes, fighting against the coal companies. They have been fighting for their rights forever. Coal is now mountain top removal; it isn’t in the mines any more and will never be again. Mountain top removal, as most people know, rips off mountain tops, destroys the environment, pollutes, and rips out cemeteries while damaging homes, as if being down in the mines wasn’t bad enough. People are fighting for their land; they want the mountain top coal removal stopped. Coal mining will never come back no matter what Swampman says. He was just using the people to get their votes. I even wonder how many people were planted at his rallies, but even if they were really Appalachians, they are the few. They could just be those who are desperate for work, for any kind of work, and coal is their only hope since jobs have not been brought into the mountains. Of course, as I said, the pay at these mines was always below poverty level, and now mountain top removal uses few workers, mostly outside labor. To think of it, we should all be fighting for clean energy, and I don’t mean Fracking which is also polluting and causes earthquakes as I know very well. Oklahoma has more earthquakes than CA now. I left CA for this? So obviously, although not to Vance, the people in the Appalachians are poor, I repeat myself again, because they had been given very low wages, and now that there are no coal mining or factory jobs they have no money to spend in stores, so many businesses have moved out, making the entire area poorer still. Some people say that they should just move, but they should not have to move; it was their land, and the coal companies have no right to destroy it. It is also their culture; they have lived a life they loved until the coal companies came in years ago. Plus, government has caused this mess; they should fix it by bringing in good jobs and helping the people by continuing to give welfare and have programs that help them get back on their feet. But there are some good jobs there that keep Appalachia alive: These jobs are in education, hospitality, and healthcare. Who keeps it poor? That would be the private businesses and out-of-state land owners who don’t pay taxes, or just don’t pay enough. There is so much more to this book that I can’t even begin to tell, and of course some of what I have written are my own ideas, and I could be wrong in regards to some of them. I am just glad that one of my new GR friends had liked my review on Hillbilly Elegy which in turn caused me to find this book amongst her own reviews, because our book group is now reading Hillbilly Elegy, so Catte’s book is a great rebuttal if I don’t find myself ranting as I have just done here. Social injustice just causes me to go off the deep end. “Testifying against coal companies in eastern Kentucky, young women described watching bull-dozers rip through a family cemetery. Alice Sloan, a Kentucky-area educator, described how Bige Richie pleaded with the coal company to spare the grave of her child: ‘The bulldozer pushed over the hlll and she begged them not to go through the graveyard. And she looked out there and there was her baby’s coffin come rolling down the hill

  2. 4 out of 5

    Garen

    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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    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 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 other writers I've read illustrating why these stereotypes have led to mistrust and caused genuine pain. She connects Vance's ideas on a distinct Scots-Irish heritage, through the sources and particular terminology he uses, to a much larger, more disturbing trend of white supremacist eugenics, showing instead that Appalachia is an amalgam of different (though largely European) ethnic groups. One of my biggest issues with Hillbilly Elegy (and I had a lot of them) was the way Vance intentionally and explicitly sidestepped race before dismissing it as a non-factor. In reading her attempt to illustrate the diversity and progressive aspects of Appalachia, I was a little worried that Catte would sidestep the issue, too, in favor of class. Thankfully, she doesn't - while she doesn't necessarily explore race in depth, she does show that portraying Appalachia as a monolith erases flourishing movements like Black Lives Matter and prison abolition. Her point is less that racism in Appalachia isn't an issue (she's clear that it's there), but that racism in other parts of the country is underexplored. As she puts it, we're all in Trump country. There's still a great deal more to be said, but that isn't her point here, and I felt that was mostly fair. Well worth your time, especially for Appalachians like me who wrestle with stereotypes we have felt are partly true (bigotry is very, very real) while knowing it's not the whole truth.

  4. 5 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    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 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 before I read this? Image one: said black and white pictures. Image two: fiddle music. Image three: Deliverance. So yeah, not just fiddles, banjoes too. As a consequence of this, if somebody had asked me, I would have guessed that Appalachia was small. It fits the homogeneity of the sense of the place. See? Place. Place is small. It's a thing that's clearly identifiable. Wrong word. Wrong, wrong, wrong. One of the first things I found out, opening this small book, is that Appalachia is huge, encompassing many States and many millions of people. It would seem obvious, just from that fact, that it isn't going to be homogeneous. This book is out to fight that, explaining how it has happened so that you understand why you've been duped. It's sort of an enraged lament, explaining the process of how we got to a particular point in US history which I hadn't heard of before I read this book. Hillbilly Elegy. On Goodreads over 60 of my friends have read it, compared with a tally of four for this volume. Let's lament just a little louder then, as we realise how many people have bought into the prejudice of Vance's best seller. There is a book coming out soon, Unwhite: Appalachia, Race and Film by Meredith McCarroll who says “Its central argument is that Appalachian people in cinema have been portrayed as phenotypically white, but using the same tropes that have long been used to portray non-whites in film.” If only that were it, films getting it wrong. The heartbreaking point of Catte's volume is that this is a universal tendency, founded long ago, entrenched by those whose interests are served by it, and supported by the academic community which might largely hang its collective head in shame. One of the more wrenching moments of a book which is full of them, is to find out that at Catte's alma mater, not only has Hillbilly Elegy become required reading, but it has been put together with a deal to buy one of those books of photos which maintains the false image. For Catte on Hillbilly Elegy, which will give you a taste of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia go here. Eugenicists like Vance's message. It makes you wonder what sort of educational culture presides in the US of A. This is no reference book. It's venting spleen, written in a way I assume she would not write with her historian's cap on. There are no references, but a detailed reading list for where to go next. In a short, small form, it succinctly puts the reader in the shoes of those who live in this vast area. She makes you part of the action as she describes the long history of labour fighting capitalism, of capitalism cozying up with the academic sociologists and such like, of environmentalists - that is to say, ordinary people turned into activists by their foes - fighting for the preservation of the sweetness of the mountain areas as they are destroyed by coal production, amongst other evils. You watch the pregnant woman next to you being kicked by strike breakers. You watch sociologists agreeing with capitalists who want people off their own land, that it is for their own good to take them from their homes. You watch ordinary people being literally defined as cases for forced sterilisation because it makes it a moral imperative to take them from their homes, whether that be to rip mountains apart to mine coal, or to preserve areas for rich white people to take their vacations. If you want a nuanced, if angry, view of this exploited expanse of the US, this is an excellent place to start, and it will guide you as to where to go next.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    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 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 thought to defy evidence of white privilege."), BUT she is in DIRE need of an editor. Maybe two or three editors. Stories start halfway through and expect you to know references to the region's history. Many references are not explained. Many of her points begin and end somewhere in the middle. A lot of her language feels constructed and academic. She makes valid points that an entire region of 10-20 million people can not be classified by one archetype, but if she could make those points much simpler and more straight forward, she would have a much stronger book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    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, 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, Harry Caudill, and William Shockley. Though focused on Appalachia (and why it’s a convenient myth for conservatives and liberals alike), Catte gets to universal issues of identity, narrative, self-determination, and the endless tyranny of wealth, privilege, and power.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    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 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 history of economic exploitation by the coal industry, although the coal corporations are no longer the significant employer they were in the past. Corporate welfare allowed the coal industry to damage the area environmentally, control politics in the region, and to accumulate enormous tracts of land while paying little corporate property tax. The miners and other citizens carried most of the weight of taxation since the tax for personal property was high. It was difficult for the miners to fight for workers' rights when the coal companies controlled the politicians. Strip mining and mountaintop removal has done significant damage to the region. Recently, there has been growth in the prison industry where some of the most dangerous offenders have been imprisoned in the Appalachian region. However, most of the higher level jobs have not gone to the local people. The book tells about Appalachian activists over the years who have campaigned for unions, workers' rights, health clinics, clean water, and other environmental concerns. A reading list in the back is a source of many Appalachian works of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry written by a diverse group of individuals, and many of these works were discussed in the text. Elizabeth Catte, who was born in East Tennessee, gives an insider's view of Appalachia. The book has lots of interesting information, but it could have benefited from better organization and expansion of some topics.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cinda

    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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    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 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 “all of Appalachia is this” (in my memory). He grew up in a certain area of Appalachian Ohio, and presented his views on it. I don’t think it was necessarily clear that he meant that, say, Georgian Appalachia is the same. Of course, some of the things that JD Vance talks about are true of nearly all of Appalachia. And denying those things doesn’t change the reality. Sure, it has some of the fastest growing minority populations—but that doesn’t mean it’s (racially) a diverse place. 62% of Americans are non-Hispanic white. By comparison, other than in Mississippi and Alabama’s Appalachian regions, Appalachia is still over 90% non-Hispanic white. [And for that matter, JD Vance specifically talked about how minorities are moving into the area and working jobs that he believed white Appalachians were unwilling to get or keep, which he postulates is what motivated them to vote for a racist president]. Sure, poverty is an aggressive stereotype of Appalachia, and there are plenty of Appalachians who are not impoverished. Of course, poverty rates in Appalachia are higher than other areas of the country (this difference is particularly obvious when you compare poverty rates in the Appalachian region of a state to the same state’s non-Appalachian region). Basically, it feels like Catte is angry at Vance for pointing out all of Appalachia’s problems, and then on the other hand, angry at him for not recognizing the strength of Appalachians’ resilience in the face of those problems. There is no question, to me, that Appalachia is populated with a huge number of brave, bold activists and other brilliant, talented people, or that it has a rich cultural history. Much of the book talks about that, but she’s preaching to the choir in terms of me. There’s also no question that the violent union struggles, including the mine wars, improved worker conditions across the nation and made some difference in employee rights and activism. Catte wants to make it clear that the problems of Appalachia are not their own. Of course they’re not. Of course they’ve been exploited by the outrageous tax breaks the government gives to corporations who poison their air, their water, and their food. Of course that exploitation is done in order to give the rest of the country cheap products. Of course it’s not due to laziness. That is one thing I’ll disagree with JD Vance strongly on: he strongly implies white Appalachians are merely lazy, and I think that’s oversimplifying and accusatory. I do think he fails to recognize the way that corporations have caused many of the region’s social problems. I think this book is very important for its main theme: blaming Appalachia entirely for Trump is not only misplaced, it’s also dangerously elitist. By “othering” Appalachia (quite literally, as it has been referred to as “the other America”) we reduce the value of Appalachians as humans in our minds. We make it easier to look the other way when we exploit them for their very lives the way we have been for a century. If we are the ones who do that, then who’s really the Trump-minded among us? I’m definitely going to reread Hillbilly Elegy and ponder this some more. ---------------CONCLUSIONS--------------- I guess I see it this way. Elizabeth Catte is right: the concept of “Appalachia” and the stereotypes therein (i.e. illiterate, poor hicks) were created by the coal industry and propagated by all of America to soothe our consciences: if they were so poorly off before, then bringing jobs into the area is actually us being nice (even if, you know, some of them die and/or are poisoned along the way). And continuing to buy into that is being complicit with the exploiters, with the “imperialists” as Appalachian author Sharyn McCrumb says in this short but awesome video. But JD Vance is right, too: Appalachians really ARE undereducated, DO have high poverty rates, DID contribute to (though are not solely responsible for) the 2016 election results. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The stereotype was created to exploit Appalachians, and the exploitation of the Appalachians caused their social problems, which fed into the original stereotype. What the solution is, I can’t tell you. But though I firmly disagreed with parts of this book, I also really appreciated the opportunity to think more critically about JD Vance’s book, and think about the issues posed in both books more thoroughly.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shomeret

    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 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 from Catte's book. I already knew that Appalachians were portrayed as backwards as an excuse to seize their land. It wasn't just about the destruction of the environment by mining companies. Though that was also a serious issue. It was about taking everything these people had--their homes and the farms that were their livelihood. This is the root cause of Appalachian poverty. Catte also mentions Black Appalachians in her book. If you read Vance's book you'd think that there were no African Americans in Appalachia. Elizabeth Catte has an extensive bibliography to bolster her arguments. It was refreshing to see her perspective. She successfully proves that there have been and still are Appalachian radicals, and that the population of Appalachia is more ethnically diverse than Vance portrays. For my complete review see http://shomeretmasked.blogspot.com/20...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Blakeman

    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 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 took to be a cultural assessment of a few million people but rather a story that may not be entirely unique. At least it was a quick read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    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. 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    A compact and powerful rebuttal to Hillbilly Elegy, a book which I uncomfortably recognise I was taken in by to a certain extent—I recognised some of the weaknesses of J.D. Vance's work, but not all of them, and I didn't know that he consorts with eugenicists. (Or, as I see after a quick search, one who coyly flirts with white nationalism. Gross.) Unlike Vance, Elizabeth Catte isn't just of Appalachian descent but from Appalachia and a trained historian, and uses her knowledge of both the region A compact and powerful rebuttal to Hillbilly Elegy, a book which I uncomfortably recognise I was taken in by to a certain extent—I recognised some of the weaknesses of J.D. Vance's work, but not all of them, and I didn't know that he consorts with eugenicists. (Or, as I see after a quick search, one who coyly flirts with white nationalism. Gross.) Unlike Vance, Elizabeth Catte isn't just of Appalachian descent but from Appalachia and a trained historian, and uses her knowledge of both the region and the past to neatly dismantle many of Vance's claims, and to show the flaws in many popular media appraisals of his work. However, there are points where Catte slips into a more academic style of prose, one which I know historians are trained into and which can alienate a non-academic audience, and that sits oddly alongside the more polemical portions of the book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    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 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 in the immediate aftermath of her home territory getting labelled “Trump Country”. Catte refutes Vance and his warped picture of Appalachia (which it should be noted is not a new warped view, it’s the same old same old that was used to get affluent whites to care about poverty in the 1930s and later and edges into eugenics) by bringing in a more well rounded account of modern Appalachia. But that doesn’t prevent her from running over to polemic instead of social history on occasion. full review: https://faintingviolet.wordpress.com/...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda Layne

    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 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 prefer his book over hers. Why? Well, perhaps because I did not believe Vance had anything to prove in writing his book. He was writing a MEMOIR, as he states in his title. It appears to me that Ms. Catte's main goal was to disprove everything Vance had to say. Again, let's remember Vance's book title contains the word MEMOIR. So, his book is based on HIS experiences. Ms. Catte's book is based on HER experiences and HER research. I suppose I might have enjoyed reading her book, if I was not stumbling over her attitude every few pages. She does have many good points, however, the personalities and issues Vance describes in his book DO EXIST. They existed when he was growing up and I am sure they continue to remain. How would I know this? Well, while I did not grow up in Appalachia, I was jointly raised by people who did. So I was exposed to the close-mindedness, the idea of keeping certain family secrets in the family, no matter how horrible - some things were just not spoken of in the presence of strangers. And yes, you took care of your own against whoever the "enemy" might be. And, yes, I was exposed to racial bigotry. Thankfully, I also had a mother and a grandmother who saw to it that I also heard positive ideas and non-racist comments about people who had different colored skin, were Jewish, and came from other countries (Poland, Italy, etc. i.e., for some, it was not enough being "white" - one could not be "different" in ANY way, what so ever. So, in conclusion, I am sure Ms. Catte did her research, but her writing style is a little too aggressive when it does not need to be. Her complaint that Vance's, book is everywhere, IN OUR SCHOOLS ("oh, the horror") well, maybe the instructors, just want to start a discussion among their students, and get them talking. Isn't that how change starts?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    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 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 analysis, Catte discusses the Appalachia and its people to show, well, why what is often portrayed isn't always the truth. It was a disappointment. The ratings were high but comments about needing an editor, any editor are on point. I'm honestly not sure what Catte was trying to do, except perhaps directly reply to Vance. There are plenty of points where it'd be great to expand upon (for example, I would have loved more discussion about the non-white people in the region and what brought them there, how *they* feel about being underrepresented, etc.) in the text but it feels like a mishmash. It felt like I either really needed to be already familiar with the Appalachia (which defeats the purpose of the book) and/or the author simply threw down a bunch of thoughts. In some ways it felt like Catte simply fell into the same trap: she talks about Trump voters, coal miners, etc. but not about the groups/issues/etc. that are underrepresented in the media or actually helped the reader (who I thought was assumed not to be familiar with the region) get a more in-depth understanding. I'm still not sure what it is that "we" are getting wrong about the Appalachia. I'm not sure if I'll read Vance's book. It seems Vance's book deserves a response but book really wasn't it nor does it do a good job in helping us understanding what we're getting wrong. There are a couple of interesting bits of information, but even this short book was far too long. Borrow from the library but I wouldn't rush to read it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Fischman

    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 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 people of the region and ignore their own wishes. *That casting Appalachia as uniformly white and Scots-Irish is wrong, because it ignores the African American, Native American, Jewish, and Latino populations who have long contributed to the region...AND because it makes myths about that ethnic group into explanations of why poverty persists in Appalachia. On that last point, Catte is particularly strong when she refutes the unduly popular book Hillbilly Elegy. She shows how J.D. Vance’s aspersions on redneck culture give aid and comfort to outright racialist arguments that it’s all in the genes. At times, especially toward the end of the book, Catte can wax lyrical about the past and present movements of resistance. If you’ve never read about Mother Jones, the NMU, or present-day activism by artists and queers, you might feel lost at moments. The best thing to do would be to make a note of the names and use this book as a launchpad for future reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    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 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 to create and maintain structures of inequality. Vance ignored evidence of generations of resistance to these forces, instead presenting the people of Appalachia as dependent and lacking in ambition. Historian Elizabeth Catte’s book is a beautifully written, carefully researched corrective to all that. It is Catte who should be appearing on the Sunday morning news shows and Catte’s book that should required reading in college classrooms, not Vance’s book which promulgates persistent, inaccurate, and destructive culture of poverty stereotypes. Of course, Catte’s book is complex and multi-layered and it doesn’t lend itself to the superficial analysis and self-congratulatory rhetoric that the media—on the left and the right—flock to embrace. If you really want to understand Appalachia, throw Hillbilly Elegy away and read this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Noe

    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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    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 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 Appalachia because a friend recommended it.  She was quick to say this wasn't a political book bashing either political party but rather a look at the history of Appalachia and how the government (and other groups) have created and used the stereotypes of Appalachia for their own gain. Elizabeth Catte was born and raised in Appalachia, just like J.D. Vance.  This book was essentially her response to Hillbilly Elegy: "Vance is a well-educated person of means with a powerful platform who has chosen to accept a considerable amount of fame and wealth to become the spokesperson for a region. Since he is such an enormous fan of personal responsibility, I am thrilled to hold him responsible for his asinine beliefs and associations. Appalachian blogger Kelli Haywood, in her essays on Elegy, objects to the individuals who claim that Vance isn't authentically Appalachian because he migrated outside the region. I don't give a damn about geography, but I'll note that Vance has transcended one of the most authentically Appalachian experiences of them all:  watching someone with tired ideas about race and culture get famous by selling cheap stereotypes about the region." After the media recently deemed Appalachia "Trump Country", every stereotype for the region has been paraded around, fascinating the rest of the country. Catte lays out a brief history of the area - the culture and the stereotypes - and how it has played a role in politics and big business over time.  I really enjoyed her discussion about what has been created by the region rather than for the region and the books and art she mentions throughout.  This was a well written piece that cautions readers about what the media is feeding the masses about Appalachian people and culture and why. If you want some history and insight into Appalachia and some perspective on using the region for political reasons, What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is a quick and interesting read. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    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 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 has such an obvious chip on her shoulder, which I found off-putting. I just couldn't finish this one, even though I tried REALLY hard.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    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 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 the topic interests you, give it a try but it is very academic in nature.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Austin Gilbert

    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.

  25. 5 out of 5

    stephanie

    Everyone, please read this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cody Sexton

    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 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 individual of some means, not a ‘hillbilly.’” People often look at Appalachia not as a place but often as a problem needing to be solved. Or worse, a place one can feel superior to. The Appalachia that everybody knows, outside the region anyway, is really an elitist fantasy constructed to perpetuate a narrative that allows for economic and political exploitation. But those same outside interests, in their endless quest to discover how and why poor people swung an election, have only succeeded in raising a far more complex question: why so many Americans needed this Appalachian myth to be true when it wasn’t. Perhaps it’s because Appalachia has long been a place that, as historian Ron Eller described, convinces comfortable, distant white Americans of the “righteousness” of their own lives. In other words it absolves them of any personal responsibility for anything that goes on here. People in regions such as Appalachia have in general always received a type of projected angst from their more comfortable and stable American counterparts. What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is an impudent assessment of this more recent fascination with the people and problems of my region. It also analyzes certain trends in contemporary writing on Appalachia before finally presenting a brief history of the region with an eye toward unpacking some of those same monolithic Appalachian stereotypes that have always seemed to be with us. But what this book really is, is an ill conceived, and critically withering response, to J.D. Vance’s 2016 book Hillbilly Elegy. Catte writes that, “For many conservatives, the beauty of Hillbilly Elegy was not just what it said about the lot of poor white Americans, but what it implied about black Americans as well. Conservatives believed that Hillbilly Elegy would make their intellectual platforming about the moral failures of the poor colorblind in a way that would retroactively vindicate them for viciously deploying the same stereotypes against nonwhite people for decades.” She adds, “In his willingness to present white Appalachians as a distinct ethnic entity, Vance has placed himself in a disturbing lineage of intellectuals who relished what they presumed to be the malleable whiteness of Appalachia for its ability to either prove or disprove cultural beliefs about race. This belief manifests in two ways. The first is the modern conservative impulse to discount the links between structural racism and inequality. Why can’t poor black people get ahead? It’s not racism or the structural inequality caused by racism, many conservatives argue, because then what would explain the realities of poor white people?” Joshua Rothman, writing in the New Yorker shortly after publication of Vance’s book wrote, “It’s true that, by criticizing “hillbilly culture,” “Hillbilly Elegy” reverses the racial polarity in our debate about poverty; it's also true that, by arguing that the problems of the white working class are partly “cultural,” the book strikes a blow against Trumpism. And yet it would be wrong to see Vance’s book as yet another entry in our endless argument about whether this or that group’s poverty is caused by “economic” or “cultural” factors.” I myself was born and raised deep within the Appalachian mountains and I can tell you from personal experience, even within my own family, that there are still strong cultural links to a past that does, sometimes at least, hold us back. What Hillbilly Elegy did was to highlight certain aspects of our way of life that, as Kelli Haywood says, “allow these problems to be ongoing,” adding, “ask the unwed or wedded woman in her 30’s living in the region how many times she’s been asked when she’s going to have a baby whether or not she’s healthy or financially secure. Ask the churchgoer how much their church serves the community and how. While at it, ask them how much they hear politics preached from the pulpit. Ask anyone middle aged or under how many times that they’ve been told by their parents and other elders that if they want to do anything with their life they should leave the mountains. Ask how many feel they have to change the way they speak depending upon who it is they’re speaking to. But, the most troubling of cultural drawbacks we face is the way we deal with problems that cause us to seem weak, embarrassed, or by some standards immoral. We pretend they don’t exist, at least in public. Vance by airing our dirty laundry has triggered the response of people scrambling to show that these problems do not define us. Yet, to those in the thick of these realities, they often do.” Returning to Joshua Rothman again, “It’s one thing to criticize a culture. It’s another to see that the culture being criticized is formed partly in response to other cultures, and that those cultures are, in turn, worth criticizing. This is why explaining human behavior is so difficult: the buck never stops. The explanations don’t come to an obvious, final resting place. Because it’s honest about this problem, “Hillbilly Elegy” is only partially polemical.” Of course J.D. Vance doesn’t speak for all of Appalachia and no serious person believes that he does. Those that took a strong offense to his book are those who feel like Vance was telling the wrong story of Appalachia, or not an Appalachian story at all. The more sophisticated writers and activists in the region, Catte included, have attempted to feature some of the more progressive stories of life living in the mountains. But these too are disingenuous and only serves to paint yet another inaccurate portrait of the place that so many call home. No one has the authority to define any region or place and anyone who tries does so based on ideological reasons. That’s how ideologies work. They function by identifying some people as powerless and others as powerful and whoever gets to define what those terms mean gets to control the narrative. In my view there’s room for Catte and Vance to both be correct. Outside interests have taken advantage of Appalachia and not left much behind. Some families are dysfunctional and some people do mooch off the system in ways that cause resentment in others. But it’s up to readers to compare and contrast these two books and then draw their own conclusions. However this “economics vs. culture” divide needs to be seen for what it is, a dead metaphor, akin to an insidious form of manipulation rather than explanation that’s more likely to conceal the truth than to reveal it. I think Vance’s book is an understated scream of protest against the racialized blame game that has, for decades, powered American politics and confounded our attempts to talk about poverty in any meaningful way. At least since the Moynihan Report, in 1965, Americans have tended to answer the question “Why are people poor?” either one of two ways. They either blame economic factors or they blame cultural factors. These may seem like two social science theories of poverty but when they are put into practice, they become more like political fairy tales. These two theories may be useful for politicians to peddle during election cycles, but the truth is that the “culture vs. economics” dyad is largely a fantasy. We are neither prisoners of our economic circumstances nor lords of our cultures, able to reshape them at will. It would be more accurate to say that cultural and economic forces act, with entwined and equal power, on and through all of us and that we all have an ability, limited but real, to harness or resist them. When we pursue education, we improve ourselves both “economically” and “culturally.” There’s nothing distinctly and intrinsically “economic” or “cultural” about the problems that afflict poor communities, such as widespread drug addiction or divorce. For example, if you lose your job, get divorced, and become an addict, is your addiction “economic” or “cultural” in nature? When we debate whether such problems have a fundamentally “economic” or “cultural” cause, we aren’t saying anything meaningful about the problems. We’re just arguing, incoherently, about whether or not people who suffer from them deserve to be blamed for them. The problems facing Appalachia are not endemic to our region alone. Economic decline, generational poverty, an inability to find steady employment, low educational attainment, and interpersonal violence, are all issues that seem to plague lower income communities all across the country and the solutions that would help our region are the same as those that would help any other. Solutions which should include raising the minimum wage for workers regardless of what industry they’re in, separating health insurance from employment, and implementing a universal basic income for people who are facing long term unemployment. But we should also keep in mind that the solutions to our problems are not going to be exclusively “economic” or “cultural” either. People are complex, history is complex, regions and politics are complex, and you really need to be on guard for any narrative that offers you all of the answers in a one size fits all, bite-sized, single serve package.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    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. 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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    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 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 good energy from the region. Terrific stuff, and a must-read before voting gets underway in 2020. Let's not let the media spin the narrative once again that Appalachia "gets what it deserves" or that Trump won because of poor white people. There's so much more to learn and see, and Catte's book will help any good citizen on the path towards understanding our country better.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Overall, this book was a thorough disappointment. The author explicitly states this book is a refutation and response to J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. This is stated in her forward as well as repeatedly through the book. When I picked up this book, I was excited. A book duel! I expected to see either 1) a recitation of points made by Vance followed by Catte's counterpoints or 2) Catte's own direct unique experiences offering a counter point to Vance's w Overall, this book was a thorough disappointment. The author explicitly states this book is a refutation and response to J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. This is stated in her forward as well as repeatedly through the book. When I picked up this book, I was excited. A book duel! I expected to see either 1) a recitation of points made by Vance followed by Catte's counterpoints or 2) Catte's own direct unique experiences offering a counter point to Vance's work. Instead I got door number 3: incoherent ranting. Catte refutes exactly nothing that Vance puts forward in his book. In fact, Vance's book is a deeply personal memoir - how exactly would you go about refuting someone's life? Instead, Catte digs up a number of people who are conservative (as Vance openly is conservative) and attacks the views of those people. All of those people have one overriding thing in common: None of them are the author of the book she claims to be refuting. She offers us a classic logical fallacy of the Straw Man: "creating the illusion of refuting or defeating an opponent's proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition and the subsequent refutation of that false argument." (Per Wikipedia's definition of Straw Man.) Her sources to refute the views of the people who didn't write the book in question? Huffington Post, New York Times, National Review, and similar publications. All valid publications, but since none purport to be any sort of experts on Appalachia they are utterly pointless in context of her stated goal of refuting Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. I could summarize her position as this. J.D. Vance is a conservative, Elizabeth Catte dislikes conservative views, so J.D. Vance needs to be silenced. I'm personally sick of this faux approach to intellectual discourse. I will say the second half of the book is much better. She leaves off her straw man attacks and presents a well-thought out history of the exploitation of coal mining, the unintended consequences of the War on Poverty for Appalachia, the current soul-deadening of commercial prisons as a growth industry in the region. I suspect the second half of the book was in progress, and she added the first half as an emotional overreaction to J.D. Vance. I wish I had read the second half of the book only. I hope the author considers re-issuing a book with just the second half. The first half is a full on temper tantrum, poorly written and poorly edited, and should never have made it to publication. I gave the book 2 stars - the average of 4 stars for the second half and 0 stars for the first half.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lesa

    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 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 square miles of the eastern United States. The region begins in Alabama, ends in New York, and includes portions of thirteen states, yet we persist in viewing all the residents of "Appalachia" as poor white hillbillies who vote against their own interests. Catte points out that this stereotype suits the interests of politicians and businessmen, and has been used successfully to remove people from their homes, defeat unions, and destroy the environment. In relating the story of the myth of the "Scot-Irish" working people, the coal miners, Catte introduces some of the people who have fought for workers' rights. She also tells of photographers and writers who were sent to the area to find people who would fit the stereotypical expectations. She's angry enough at Vance's portrayal of the area and its people that she says, in contrast, she'll provide readers with her own version. What you Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is a small book with an extensive list of suggested resources. Despite its size, it's not an easy book to read because there is so much to absorb. I did not read Hillbilly Elegy. As a memoir, it certainly represents Vance's truth about his own life. But, does he represent an entire region of the country? Years ago, my father said, "Paper will sit still for anything to be written on it." It's still an excellent reminder to evaluate what you're reading, to put it in context, and look at the bigger picture. It's just my opinion, but I think Elizabeth Catte looks at the bigger picture.

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