Review: What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia

What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Catte, a native from Appalachia country sets down the path to redefine and open up the definition of Appalachian country from a limited, white, working or impoverish class dominated by an honor and warrior society. She sets about this with two main goals; deconstructing the myth and its impact on Appalachia culture--most recently perpetuated by J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy--and articulating the complexity of and richness of identities, including strong representations by people of color, non-Scots-Irish descendants, and LGBTQA people. As someone who has grown up, left, and now returned to her Appalachian roots, Catte finds the depictions of her place of origin problematic on a person and intellectual level and therefore traces the history of that depiction and the ways in which images and concepts of Appalachia has been used to promote eugenics, squash workers' rights, and as a sympathetic distraction in political discourse. It's a powerful take-down that will leave readers questioning the monolithic portrayal and the ways in which it is used in society (e.g. the 2016 election). What I liked most about Catte's book is that her argument is rooted in this idea that Appalachia is a microcosm of the country at large in the sense that it is much more purple and mixed than the ways in which it is represented. Thus, she spends a good amount of time tracing out these diverse identities and political mixture, trying to remind readers that we do harm when we conceptualize a group (area of the country, state, etc) as a singular identity and in doing so, create further tension among the different (and similar) people.

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