Vance contends that the hillbilly culture after economic collapse encourages social decay. What differences do you see between that culture and any other culture? In your culture, did you see any similar social decay during the Great Recession?
All Church Read: Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance - Discussion Starting on Sunday, May 7th at 10:00 a.m.
The Humanist Team will kick off the All-Church Read program on Sunday, May 7th with a discussion of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.
Description at Amazon.com:
"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."
Given her background and life experiences, how do you think Judy Shepard was able to be so accepting of Matthew's being gay?
Judy Shepard was initially surprised by the vigils that were taking place around the country for her son. In the book, she stated, "Ultimately I figured out that the people at the vigil that night were driven by fear and anger as much as they were by despair and sorrow for Matt. These folks knew that they could easily have been the ones who had been attacked, and that they, or someone they love, might be the next to fall victim." How did you relate to the story when it occurred? How do you relate to this week's news in the context of fear of/for marginalized groups?
In her "Author's Note," Judy Shepard comments, "You knew him as Matthew. To us he was Matt. I have tried to reconcile the two within these pages...Matt was so much more than 'Matthew Shepard, the gay twenty-one-year-old University of Wyoming college student.' He had a family and countless friends. He had a life before the night he was tied to that fence." We often say that peoples' beliefs about LGBTQ issues are transformed by actually knowing an individual personally. Why do you think we need this experience to develop compassion and empathy? Is it possible to do so in the absence of a personal relationship?
To hear or read an interview with Judy Shepard from 2009, click the link below: