A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
I read a lot of books. There really isn’t ever a time when I don’t have at least two lying around the house in which I am in the process of reading. There was a time when I had three or four, but decided to limit myself to two at a time because it was getting confusing.
I’m not saying this to brag, there are many people out there that do the same. I only mention it because this is the first book that I felt was important enough to actually write about.
As you may know (or not) I was born and raised in West Virginia, or more importantly Appalachia. However, my parents were born and raised in northeast Ohio. They moved to West Virginia after my dad decided they had to spread the Bible in the Bible Belt. We moved back to Ohio after a death in the family required us to care for my grandfather.
So from the very first page Vance’s story captivated me. It caused flashbacks so intense I was laughing and crying at the same time throughout the book. He captured the ambiguity in which these people live perfectly. On some level they all know there’s a better way to live, but can’t or won’t see a way out so they decide to make do with what they have.
I related to the fierce pride he felt for his people, because even though my family wasn’t from the area, West Virginia and its people were my people. They were my friends and my family. I felt at home with them like I never did in my own home. Sure they were loud and a bit scary sometimes, but I knew (I mean really knew) that if I was in trouble they would defend me. I was never really so sure about my parents.
Vance gives the reader a glimpse into the harshness and beauty in which Appalachia people live. He allows the reader to experience his pain and frustration and is brutally honest about how the abuse he experienced as a child cost him as an adult. He shows the importance of taking responsibility, making strategic decisions, and letting go of the past.
I encourage everyone to read this book, even if you aren’t from this area. It will give you a better understanding into why some people think and act like they do. After all, we are all a product of our environment to a certain extent.
Sometimes we have to choose to rise above it.