Books: I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of "Hillbilly Elegy" by J.V. Vance> From the NY Times review (here):
Papaw was forever coming home drunk. Mamaw, “a violent nondrunk,” was forever tormenting him, whether by serving him artfully arranged plates of garbage for dinner or dousing him with gasoline. All this guerrilla warfare affected their children. Mr. Vance’s mother was an empress of instability — violent, feckless, prone to hysteria. A long stint in rehab couldn’t shake her addiction to prescription narcotics (she’d later move on to heroin). She spun through more boyfriends than this reader could count and at least five husbands.
“Hillbilly Elegy,” in my mind, divides into two components: the family stories Mr. Vance tells — most of which are no doubt better experienced on the page than they were in real life — and the questions he raises. Chief among them: How much should he hold his hillbilly kin responsible for their own misfortunes?
In Mr. Vance’s estimation, the answer is: a lot. Economic insecurity, he’s convinced, accounts for only a small part of his community’s problems; the much larger issue is hillbilly culture itself. Though proud of it in many ways, he’s also convinced that it “increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”
TED talk video: