Monday, April 9, 2018

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row

Book: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : Evaluation : Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
Author: Anthony Ray Hinton, Bryan Stevenson (Introduction), Lara Love Hardin
Edition: Hardcover from Mountain View Public Library
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1250124719 (ISBN13: 9781250124715)
Start Date: March 31, 2018
Read Date: April 9, 2018
272 pages
Genre: Autobiography
Language Warning: Low
Rated Overall: 4 out of 5
History: 3 out of 5


Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):
Things are quiet enough, Anthony Ray Hinton has gotten himself into minor trouble-writing bad checks and stealing a car. But through his mother, he has turned over a new leaf and trying to work off his debt. On the night of a murder, Hinton is working for ManPower in a locked, guarded in factory. The murder happens 15 miles away.

A childhood acquaintance implicates Hinton in the murder and the police pick him up for two other murders as well. While searching his mother’s residence, they find a gun, which they say shot the three people.

During the trial, he was represented by a lawyer who felt imposed upon because he had to represent Hinton. It turns out that the prosecutor and the lawyer were friends. Hinton’s polygraph results was ruled inadmissible, while the ballistics tests were. The ballistics expert hired by the defense to counter the prosecution had one good eye and was mocked as being a fraud. Consequently Hinton was convicted and sentenced to death.

He continues to rely on his lawyer to clear him through the appeals process. But it becomes apparent that the lawyer only wants money rather than justice. Eventually Hinton and his family cannot raise the money the lawyer wants, so he is fired. Another lawyer signs onto the case and starts to shake down the family as well. Through this, Hinton decides to be silent in his 5’x7’ prison cell. Finally Hinton meets a lawyer who is working for him. But as it looks like progress is being made, she takes another job.

By now, Hinton has heard of a lawyer named Bryan Stevenson. Hinton says it is him or nobody. After interviewing Hinton, Stevenson takes on the case. This man works all of the angles. He understands public relations, how to work with a client-even as a prisoner, and the law. Over the next 15-20 years Stevenson works the process of getting Hinton a new trial, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. When the justices hears the facts of the case, including the new ballistics tests, they not only agree that Hinton did not receive a fair trial, but said that he is innocent and sets him free.

One of the amazing things about this man is how he fights for justice without being vindictive. This did not happen all at once. In the beginning, if he had gotten a chance, he would have killed the prosecutor and the judge. But as he heard others break down on death row, he felt for them and started opening up. This opening up first was with the other prisoners, then with the guards. He learned how that honey catches more goodwill than anger. This is not to say he was not angry or depressed at times, but even in these circumstances he was able to look outside of himself.


Cast of Characters:
  • Anthony Ray Hinton-Author and person who wrongly served 30 years on death row
  • Bryan Stevenson-Lawyer who was able to show Hinton’s innocence. Also wrote about it in a book called Just Mercy.
  • Hinton’s mother-the steadying force in Hinton’s life.
  • Lester Bailey-Hinton’s longtime friend from grade school all the way through prison, Lester sticks with Hinton.

Thoughts:
The thoughts and questions which occurs to me include:

What was the judicial system so intense on convicting hinton? Was there something else in the background? Where they content just to convict anyone? Any black man? Hinton lays out what happens from his perspective. He obviously feels wronged but you do not get the feeling of hatred against the judge or prosecutor. But he is puzzled by what he sees are obvious conflicts of justice and actuality.

But this gets to what kind of man is Hinton? Why doesn’t he become more vindictive once he is out?

How I got introduced to this book was by reading a chapter from the Longreads.com site. The thing which interested me was him starting up a book group, on death row. There was the warmth of trying something new, hesitancy of going into something different, and the fascinating with learning of new possibilities. That chapter got me to reading more.


Evaluation:
 I started reading this book because of an excerpt on Longreads.com-it grabbed my attention. The question is, would the rest of the book continue to grab my attention? The answer is yes. The writing is average and nothing which I would go out of the way to read. But Hinton’s story is compelling. There are several themes to it:
  • Innocent man unfairly convicted
  • Racial injustice of the justice system
  • The large amount of innocent people on death row
  • Redemption of a man
  • Innocence eventually, after 30 years, is established
But is the the man himself which is the centerpiece of the book. How Hinton can cope and overcome and forgive in such a circumstance is the man story.

 

Book References:
  • Go Tell It On the Mountain  by James Baldwin


Table of Contents:
  • Foreword Bryan Stevenson ix
  • 1 Capital Offense 1
  • 2 All American 15
  • 3 A Two-Year Test Drive 26
  • 4 The Cooler Killer 37
  • 5 Premeditated Guilt 49
  • 6 The Whole Truth 55
  • 7 Conviction, Conviction, Conviction 67
  • 8 Keep Your Mouth Shut 77
  • 9 On Appeal 86
  • 10 The Death Squad 98
  • 11 Waiting to Die 110
  • 12 The Queen of England 119
  • 13 No Monsters 129
  • 14 Love Is a Foreign Language 139
  • 15 Go Tell It on the Mountain 148
  • 16 Shakedown 157
  • 17 God's Best Lawyer 166
  • 18 Testing the Bullets 173
  • 19 Empty Chairs 183
  • 20 Dissent 203
  • 21 They Kill You on Thursdays 215
  • 22 Justice for All 224
  • 23 The Sun Does Shine 230
  • 24 Bang on the Bars 237
  • Afterword: Pray for Them by Name 243
  • Acknowledgments 253

References:

    Thursday, March 22, 2018

    Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

    Book:Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
    Basic Information : Synopsis : Characters : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Book References : Good Quotes : References

    Basic Information:
    Author: J.D. Vance
    Edition: eBook from the Fresno County Library
    Publisher: Harper
    ISBN:  9780062300546
    Read: March 22, 2018
    264 pages
    Genre:  Biography, Sociology
    Language Warning:  Medium
    Rated Overall: 3½  out of 5


    Synopsis (Caution: Spoiler Alert-Jump to Thoughts):
    The author traces his upbringing from being raised with essentially a single mother with serial husbands to becoming a successful Yale Law school graduate. But the book is not just a memoir, but observations of his upbringing expanded to include all of what he would call a “hillbilly” culture. This is not a rigorous dealing with the culture, but more of the author critiquing his own culture from his experience.


    Cast of Characters:
    • J.D. Vance: Author. Book follows from birth to Yale grad
    • Bonnie Blanton (Vance) Mamaw(ma’am-aw): Vance’s Grandmother, who both raised him and protected him
    • Jim Vance-Papaw: Vance’s Grandfather who dies pretty early in the story. Distant relations to the Hatfields or the McCoy-Hatfield fued
    • Mom: His mother who was addicted to drugs and had several husbands
    • Lindsay Ratliff: his sister
    • Aunt Wee (Lori Meibers): His Aunt and someone he looked up to.
    • Jim Vance: Uncle
    • Don Bowman: Vance’s dad who left him at an early age, but then shaped himself up through religion. While Vance never would have a father-son relationship. he started to understand him better.
    • Amy Chua: Yale professor in contracts and Vance’s mentor
    • Usha: Vance’s wife



    Thoughts:
    As Vance writes about his mother, you sort of think about the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. When Jesus asks her about her husband, she says that she does not have one. Jesus says, that is true, you have had five and the man whom you are with now you are not married to. This puts skin and bones to the woman at the well. You start to see what kind of life this woman had and maybe what kind of a person she was.

    Does Vance accomplish what he sets out to do? That is, one:
    • To portray himself as a hillbilly?
    • To create an understanding of modern hillbilly culture?
    • Critique why hillbillies fail at the American Dream
    JD Vance took his maternal grandparent’s name when he was old enough to decide.

    Vance is considering a run for the US Senate in 2018.

    There is a column in the Lexington Herald Leader (Kentucky) which thinks that Vance is too far removed from the hillbilly culture to have an insider critique of this culture.


    Introduction
    The purpose of the book is to explore something many people take for granted. but is unique to Vance’s environment: he was able to escape from the Rust Belt town called Middletown and become something. Not many people were able to do this.

    The purpose of the book:
    • I want people to know what it feels like to nearly give up on yourself and why you might do it?
    • I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children.
    • I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it.
    • I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels.
    • And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.
    This is not to know, but to feel and understand which requires more of a sense of placing yourself in the author’s shoes.

    Which raises the question of, who is the author? He says that he identifies more with day laborers, sharecroppers, coal miners, machinists, millworkers, … the working man-even though he is Yale educated, associated with a highly success venture capital firm and a lawyer, and maybe a soon to be politician. To summarize who who says he is, it is a Scots-Irish hillbilly. This is both from heritage, upbringing and geography. Where is grew up was in Middletown, Ohio, on the outskirts of the Kentucky hills country. Kentucky is where his relatives came from and many of them reside.

    He also sets his outlook on things here. Many people take it for granted that they are entitled to getting paid whether they work or not. He tells a story where a co-worker who often missed work and was late and took long breaks was fired. The response: “Don’t you know I’ve got a pregnant girlfriend?” The attitude of things done to them not understanding why they deserve the circumstance or understanding the larger picture. He sets the tone for the book: reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible.


    Chapter 1
    Differentiates between his address and his home address. His address is where he is currently living, which was several places. But his home address was in Jackson Kentucky. Home is where the heart is, not where the feet are.

    He starts by saying that hillbillies are respectful, helpful and friendly.

    Vance differentiates between his Ohio life and Kentucky. When he was in Ohio, he conformed to whomever his mother was dating or married to at the moment. But in Kentucky, all the men folk knew him for what he was because they had been around him his entire life. No pretending.

    Family name: Blanton
    County: Breathitt-For an interesting article on the county, read the Lexington Kentucky paper. 98% white with an average family income of $20,000. Places of history: Wikipedia Also Kim Davis came from there. The area around Jackson has changed-drug have come in, people are not trustworthy. It is an area full of contradictions-hardworking and people who prefer food stamps.

    Despite their virtues, or perhaps because of them, the Blanton men were full of vice.


    Chapter 2&3
    Not expecting the American dream from the Appalachian Hills and K-12 school rooms. Yet, there is still belief in the American Dream by hillbillies. There was a belief in hard work getting you ahead. They also could not stand those who felt the deck was stacked against them.

    He notes that hillbillies share many similarities as southern black in Detroit. As the displaced hillbillies in Middletown rose in economic affluence compared to those still in the hill, they no longer fit in with the hill people. But they were viewed as inferior by the people in Middletown.

    There was a strong belief in their family about helping family through hard times.


    Chapter 4
    Even though Mamaw and Papaw were having marital troubles due to alcohol, when it came to outside threats to family they were united, violently united. Such as trashing a store and threatening a clerk.

    Education in the 1990’s was abysmal. 20% would not make high school graduation; very, very few went to college. It was assumed that only the rich or the smart succeeded. So if you were failing, you were probably not smart enough. So it was OK to fail. Hard work did not enter into the equation. It was more the mindset of OK to fail.

    The example he uses of this mindset is when in first grade he thought he was hot stuff by being able to do subtraction. But another kid knew multiplication. There was a feeling of stupidity since he did not even know what multiplication was. He became depressed and was willing to admit himself as a failure. This is the attitude of most families in the area. His Papaw worked with him on multiplication until he knew it- So the message Vance got was to learn what you do not know, do not admit defeat. He felt this is what saved him.


    Chapter 5
    Social class in America isn’t just about money. It is also about roots and how you present yourself. Is this good?

    Mamaw and Papaw was Vance’s safety net. When his Mom moved away from Middletown-only 35 miles away-the safety net disappeared. He realized this at the age of nione. They were the gatekeepers to his mom’s sanity in raising children. Because of her upbringing, Vance’s Mom would never be the victim in marital disputes, but it also meant that she would do more than her share of instigations. The take aways Vance had in how to have a marital dispute included:
    • Never speak in a reasonable volume when screaming will do
    • If the fight gets too intense, it is OK to slap and punch, as long as the man does not start the abuse
    • always be insulting and hurtful
    • take the kids and pets to a motel, but do not tell your partner where.
    The result of all of this? Vance’s schooling began to decline.


    Chapter 6
    Rev. Donald Ison - Mamaw sent money to him. Wrote a book called Able and Willing about faith healing.

    Talks about religion. The religious teaching included:
    • Hard work was a requirement-coasting through life was a waste
    • Take care of family
    • Forgive
    • Never despair.
    And then is the many men whom Vance’s mother brought home, many to marry. He understood some of this was to give a father figure in his life. But in the end, the lesson learned was not to trust that any of them would stick around for very long.

    Vance also talks about how the people who he knew was religious, but not very church going. This seems to be true across Appalachia.


    Chapter 7
    None.


    Chapter 8
    I recognized that human beings aren’t very good at judging themselves… Vance’s Mom felt that he had anger issues-it would seem to be a miracle if he did not after the description of his home life. Instead of being discussion, it was an ambush when we met with a therapist.But he was able to explain himself well enough to this therapist to have her understand the situation.


    Chapter 9
    There is the case for eternal hope-not the religious kind, but the kind which you think if I give one more chance, someone will change. When Vance’s mom recedes into addiction, it is Mamaw, who has suffered through Vance’s mom’s problems for years, convinces Vance to give a urine sample for his mother. Why? Because this may be her opportunity to change. Isn’t this something which we all hope whether it is our friends, co-workers, relations, or even ourselves?

    His mom gave him money when she could. Mom equated money for affection. Maybe because it is easier to give than love. Love required availability and Vance’s mom had her own problems just maintaining. Back to schooling, While money would not buy affection, it was a sign of devotion from Mamaw-she made sure made sure that Vance had the things he needed to succeed in school. That got him to thinking that if she thought it was important enough for her to spend the money, then it was important enough for him to put out the effort. To his surprise, he succeeded. She also has him looking ahead, particularly at what kind of life he wants. Does he want to spend time with family on weekends? Then get educated for that kind of job.

    His Mamaw also convinced him to get a job, so that he would feel good about himself, rather than the feeling of dependency. As a cashier in a market, he was able to observe people and started being able to classify them and puzzle over their behaviors. He also saw the class divides which occurs-who got credit and who did not. He also started developing a philosophy of economics-this eventually leads to being conservative. There is the observations that handouts created dependency and that even with good intentions, sometimes government programs do not do what they intended for them to do.

    Is the solution then less government? Better run programs,? More directed interventions? Or do nothing and let everything continue to digress?

    He also talks about what happens when a factory shuts down. The poor do not leave as more of their resources are centered around pace. While the rich are more liquid and move away. This causes an even more spiral towards despondency and poverty.

    Also bad mind set does this culture no favors. Spending money they do not have on unnecessary items. Buy better than need, Not understanding how thrift can work towards wealth. So there is no money left over to take their families to a different level.

    Mamaw was proof about what a loving family could do for someone. If he had been left to fend with his mother, then the steady stream of men spouses would have had a different result. Stability brings better grades when one does not have the uncertainty of where will I be next month.


    Chapter 10
    learned helplessness-when you constantly get put into situations where you cannot do anything about it.

    transformations are harder than a moment. This happens though when Vance started understanding that even something as small as an eraser was big to a kid in Iraq who has nothing. Vance understood that he had a lot to be thankful for, rather than being centered on his own problems-there were people around him with bigger problems.

    The Marines taught Vance long term, strategic thinking. It also taught him that he could do a lot more than what he thought he could do. It also taught him to fail; understand the failure; and give him another chance. The bottom line is what his Mamaw tried to teach him: don’t be like those who think the deck is stacked against them,




    Chapter 11
    Vance states that much of his community’s and family’s identity comes from love of country. And yet, there was little which his area of the world could identify with-he names off a long line of things and people which are no longer a source of pride or example. To top it off, the most basic promise of the American Dream is a steady wage-this was lacking in his area. It is probably that last part which is the most depressing. If a person cannot earn their own way, then there is not a sense of accomplishment and pride. This leads to discouragement and the lack of drive to do something. Is this the malaise Carter was talking about? The question then is how to rectify it? Is it a political, spiritual, economic or personal problem.

    Then Vance starts talking about Obama, not so much misaligning him, but creating an understanding of why many in Vance’s region did not trust or understand him. Such as his fluent use of language, his schooling, coming from a big city and so on. But then he hits probably the biggest item-Obama succeeding beyond all measures of success coming from the background he had destroys the myth that you cannot get ahead by your own merit-the system started out working against Obama, the same as Vance’s hillbillies-except for race being the factor instead of geography. The two reactions could have been either if he can succeed, so can I. Or hating him because he did succeed.

    This feeds into the distrust of the news organizations. With the free reign the Internet has on gossip and misinformation, the hatred explodes into ignorance with things like Obama’s birth or ACA having death squads or chips embedded in us. Then you understand how hard it is to govern a people who are ignorant and despondent.

    Vance, who is a conservative, issues this critique of conservatives: Instead of encouraging engagement, conservatives increasingly foment the kind of detachment that has sapped the ambition of so many of my peers. He goes on and says that the separation he has found among his own peers is expectations-what do they and others expect out of their own lives..




    Chapter 12
    I just love the phrase which one of Vance’s law professors wrote on his paper: This is a vomit of sentences masquerading as a paragraph. I shall have to remember this sentence.

    There is this section where he notes a dichotomy of thought. First, he felt somewhat like a traitor to his own kind by going to Yale and exceeding the community normals. He did this by sometimes disavowing he was going to Yale, or by his thinking that he did not want to be different from his kind. But there was also the attitude at Yale if you did not come from a big name school (Harvard, UCLA, …) then what are you doing here? He bristled at that thought as well.

    Vance observes that upward mobility is a two edged sword-you are moving towards something better, but also away from those who you know and love. There are times he feels like he is a cultural alien. A good term I think. He asks questions along these lines at the end of the chapter:
    • Why doesn’t anybody else from his high school go on to good schools? Why are they so unreachable?
    • Why aren’t there “hillbillies” at the top schools?
    • Why is there so much turmoil in families like his?
    • Why do successful people feel so different?






    Chapter 13
    What is a spirit guide? an entity that remains as an unembodied spirit to act as a guide or protector to a living incarnated human being.

    What to do after Yale? Vance discovers that job searching when you go to Yale is different than other places. Instead of flooding the market with resumes and online requests, at Yale it is how you networked. Emailing a friend to circulate your name; family members calling their established friends. This is foreign to Vance as he does not have that experience. The economists call it social capital. Your network has economic value.He notes that one part of this social capital is that you can measure of how much we learn through our friends, colleagues and mentors. There are those who tap into the social capital and those who don’t. Those who don’t, lose out.

    Probably one of the best things he was told during this process was to be himself rather than someone who he thought others wanted him to be.



    Chapter 14
    Nothing compares to the fear that you’re becoming the monster in your closet. Vance was understanding that he was taking up the same mannerisms which he detested in his mother. He would yell and scream at his girlfriend, to be wife one day. It takes a conscious effort to become a different person than your parents. His girl friend noted the You’ve got to make the effort because they’re family-that is to make contact and act civil.

    He also talks about something called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) which he lists seven features of ACE. He lived with at least six of those.It is noted those who had associated with in childhood was much more prone to ACE behavior than those who had college education. Later on, Vance realizes that every single successful family which he was related to married outside of his culture.


    Chapter 15
    Vance was reluctantly exploring the Christian faith.

    He is also trying to figure out the places which he can help his mother and places which it is too costly for his own family. He does not shy away from a relationship with her, but is trying to figure out the boundaries-both financially, time wise and emotionally.

    Is there a magic solution to problems like his mothers? He does not think that getting the ingredients of family, faith and community in the right proportions will lead to a solution to community problems. The advice he got was that you probably cannot fix things, but you might be able to put your thumb on the scale.


    Conclusion
    As Vance was buying toys for needy children at Christmas time, he realized there this provided a moment of reflection to consider him place. How lucky he was that he was in the position he now was in rather than where he was ten years before.

    But there is also the need for needy families to keep up appearances-to have a “nice” Christmas, they will over-extend their finances so they can get the hot toy of the year. Yet he noticed his own fiscally secure relatives did not feel the pressure to have the best gifts. There success at Christmas was not defined by dollar value.

    His conclusion is that there is no government that can fix the problems hillbillies have. It is more that there needs a space so that the children have a chance to grow up in a stable environment where there is expectations to succeed.





    Evaluation:
    While Vance says that he does not consider this a memoir, it is pretty much autobiographical. He talks about his upbringing from a mother whose parents were from the mountains of Kentucky. Eventually Vance also lives with this mother’s parents in some form of stability. From there he is led to believe that education is important. After a stop with the Marines, upon high school graduation, he goes on to get a four-year degree. Then goes to Yale law School and becomes a high priced lawyer.

    Vance’ story is not so much about poor boy succeeds, but about the people who he left behind. He wants their stories to be understood through his own background. These stories point to the role of stability in families as being vital and the need to establish expectations to succeed.

    While many people have commented that Vance is telling the story of how come Trump won these people during the 2016 elections, I think it really tells a story of why sometimes despite good intentions, we lack success in establishing safety nets for those in need. We establish dependency rather than a floor.

    The New York Times review puts it this way, Mr. Vance doesn’t have all the answers. But he’s advancing the conversation. So read this book for insight into many of our day’s economic and social issues.



     
    Notes from my book group:

    Thoughts from OSHER book group:
    My Questions which I did not ask:
    What is an elegy? Does this book meet that criteria?

    In Vance’s introduction, he lists five things he wants the reader to feel and understand. Did you get this book accomplish that for you? How so? What feelings were you left with after reading this book?

    Would you consider Vance to be a hillbilly-he is two generations removed from being raised in what would be considered hillbilly country.

    Why does Vance find that this book is absurd? Is it?

    Why would it be the Trump candidacy would resonate with the culture described in this book?

    Is the American Dream real? Available to everyone? Or for certain regions and ethnic make-ups? Vance says that the most basic promise of the American Dream is a steady wage. Is it? How do we insure it to be?

    In chapter four, Vance talks about the attitude of people he grew up with. It is an attitude of defeat. His grandparents did not allow him to have it. Is this attitude transferable to others? How? or why not? Is this the key or one of the keys?

    In Chapter Ten, Vance observes that handouts created dependency and that even with good intentions, sometimes government programs do not do what they intended for them to do. Is the solution then less government? Better run programs,? More directed interventions? Or do nothing and let everything continue to digress?

    In chapter Eleven, Vance observes that the most basic promise of the American Dream is a steady wage. This is lacking in his community. Three part question: is this what American’s dream about-being able to work for a wage which will keep family intact? Second, what does this say about those who are not working? About how we treat unemployment and welfare? Third, is it anybody’s responsibility to make sure this part of the American Dream is fulfilled? If so who?

    Vance, who is a conservative, issues this critique of conservatives: Instead of encouraging engagement, conservatives increasingly foment the kind of detachment that has sapped the ambition of so many of my peers. What would this engagement look like?




    Questions from LitLovers
    1. In what way is the Appalachian culture described in HillBilly Elegy a "culture in trouble"? Do you agree with the author's description of the book's premise:
    The book is about what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.
    2. Follow-up to Question 1: Vance suggests that unemployment and addiction are self-inflicted and that the Appalachian culture is one of "learned helplessness"—individuals feel they can do nothing to improve their circumstances. Do you agree with Vance's assessment? What could individuals do to improve their circumstances? Or are the problems so overwhelming they can't be surrmounted?

    3. What are the positive values of the culture Vance talks about in Hillbilly Elegy?

    4. The author's mother is arguably the book's most powerful figure. Describe her and her struggle with addiction. How did the violence between her own parents, Mawaw and Papaw, affect her own adulthood?

    5. To What—or to whom—does Vance attribute this escape from the cycle of addiction and poverty?

    6. Talk about Vance's own resentment toward his neighbors who were on welfare but owned cellphones.

    7. Follow-up to Question 6: Vance writes
    Political scientists have spent millions of words trying to explain how Appalachia and the South went from staunchly Democratic to staunchly Republican in less than a generation.... I could never understand why our lives felt like a struggle while those living off of government largess enjoyed trinkets that I only dreamed about.
    Does his book address those two separate but related issues satisfactorily?
    8. Critics of Hillbilly Elegy accuse Vance of "blaming the victim" rather than providing a sound analysis of the structural issues left unaddressed by government. What do you think?

    9. What does this book bring to the national conversation about poverty—its roots and its persistence? Does Vance raise the tone of discourse or lower it?



    Questions for Discussion from Bowling Green State University:


    Describe a moment in Hillbilly Elegy that demonstrated persistence, resilience, and/or grit. How might these terms apply to you own identity, both personally and academically?

    J.D Vance makes it clear in the introduction that Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir. How do you think this affects the text? (Listen here)

    Vance spent time in both Middletown, Ohio and Jackson, Kentucky. In what ways might these two regions of Appalachia be similar and different? Do you agree or disagree with Vance’s description of these locations?

    The LibGuide includes a number of reviews on Hillbilly Elegy. Having read the book yourself, which one of these stood out the most to you and why?

    Vance has given many interviews since the release of Hillbilly Elegy. What did you find most interesting about what Vance had to say?

    After reading the book and taking a look at some of the interviews on the LibGuide, what questions would you like to ask Vance if given the opportunity?

    Hillbilly Elegy has been both praised and criticized as a text draws attention to poor Whites living in Appalachia. What do you make of Appalachia’s demographics ?

    Think about how the book approaches Hillbilly culture and take a moment to view Vance’s viewpoint. Explain how you either agree or disagree with his definition of a hillbilly.

    Take a look at some of the popular stereotypes of a hillbilly . What elements of Appalachian culture are embellished or misleading?

    View a few of Kamau Bell’s clips on the LibGuide. How do these either reinforce or change your viewpoint on Appalachians? Do you agree or disagree with Bell’s interviewees? How might these compare or contrast with the book?

    Art and Music serve as important cultural elements in Appalachian culture. What are some of the different types of Appalachian music and how do they speak to the culture?

    What are some of the major themes found in Appalachian music? How might these give some insight into Appalachian history and culture?

    Vance clearly has a close connection to his Mamaw. How would you describe her in your own words? Do you have a Mamaw-like figure in your family?

    What is an elegy? Why do you think Vance chose to use that term in the title of the book?

    What would you say are some of the causes of poverty in Appalachia? Can you think of other places that might have the same sort of issues?

    ------
    (There are five pages of questions)


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    Questions asked in Goodreads
    This is being touted as book to explain the rise of Trump in this country. Does it explain it? Trump has never said exactly how he will deliver on his promise to make America great again. Why do Appalachians believe empty promises, especially from wealthy (well, if he would release his taxes we'd know for sure) businessmen? Is it wishful thinking?

    Was anyone else as horrified as I at those aspects of the Hillbilly culture the author praises? Mamaw was mean; she cussed, threatened and used physical violence and he admires her- why?

    After reading this book, I find that any empahty I might have had for the people depicted in the book has disappeared. They seem self-destructive in the extreme. Does anyone else feel that way?



    New Words:

    • elegy: a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.
    • inimical (chp 9): tending to obstruct or harm.
    Book References:
    Good Quotes:
    • First Line: Ny name is J.D. Vance, and I think I should start with a confession: I find the existence of the book you hold in your hands somewhat absurd.
    • Last Line: So I patted Casper’s head and went back to sleep.
    • We tend to overstate and understate, to glorify the good and ignore the bad in ourselves. Chp 1
    • Nothing compares to the fear that you’re becoming the monster in your closet. Chp 4

    References: