All In Good Storytime

category: Literature

Page Twenty-Two--Middletown


In the 22nd episode of All in Good Storytime, we begin reading "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" by J.D. Vance. Without a stable father figure and with a mother who struggled with substance abuse and violence, J.D. and his older sister were primarily raised by their grandparents in both Kentucky and Ohio. This memoir includes tales of hillbilly justice, substance abuse, resilience, family honor, migration, and financial and class status. We begin by discussing the most interesting and mysterious person in this tale, J.D.'s Mamaw. We examine how the patriarchy informs hillbilly justice and family honor in how Mamaw's brothers forcibly defended her honor from outsiders but did nothing to protect her from threats that came from within the family. This supported the well-enforced notion that you could never disrespect your family to outsiders, but nothing was off-limits when it came to fighting each other. Next, we discussed the apparent role of resilience and wishful thinking in entrapping Appalachian citizens in their situations. To cope with their problems they would simply ignore the reality of them. This, presumably, is where substance abuse also came into play. We also discuss the interaction between financial instability and a tumultuous home life, along with the disintegration of "blue-collar" jobs and financial security in America. We also delve into the complicated and sexist nature of domestic disputes and the prevailing notion shared by numerous people in this memoir that violence was an acceptable method of expression, as long as the man didn't hit first. We further discuss the complicated role of race in this memoir. On the surface, it is explicitly ignored as a major contributing factor to the suffering society J.D. Vance describes, but it clearly plays a significant part in its formation. Finally, we discuss a few of our own personal connections to Middletown, Ohio.


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