An MTSU alumna is taking issue with the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” on a recent “MTSU On the Record” radio program.
Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Elizabeth Catte, author of “What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia,” first aired April 17 on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and online at www.wmot.org. You can listen to their conversation above.
Catte, a doctoral graduate of MTSU’s Public History Program and former instructor in the Department of History, contends in her book that J.D. Vance’s bestseller depicts people who live in the region around the Appalachian Mountains as “a mournful and dysfunctional ‘other’ who represent the darkest failures of the American Dream while seeking to proscribe how we — the presumed audience of indifferent elites — should feel about their collective fate.”
She rebuts this narrative by debunking stereotypes of Appalachians as uneducated, blue-collar workers who gravitated to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign because he validated their views that African-Americans, women and undocumented immigrants took their jobs away from them.
Unfortunately, Catte said, she believes the changing demographics of the region, which now includes Asians, Hispanics and other ethnic groups, have not changed perceptions of the area.
“African-American and Latino populations are the fastest-growing groups in Appalachia,” Catte said. “If you are a young person in various parts of Appalachia, you have the potential to come of age in some of the most diverse generations that Appalachia has seen.
“To my mind, the dominant narrative that tries to capture the experience of Appalachia does not acknowledge that reality at all.”
“Hillbilly Elegy” was MTSU’s 2017 Summer Reading Program choice and was required reading for all incoming freshman and transfer students. Vance delivered an address based on his book at the August 2017 University Convocation in Murphy Center.
To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.
For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.