Hillbillies: My Kinsfolk According to the Flesh

Jeff Robinson | October 17, 2016

When I first saw J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis atop The New York Times bestseller list this summer, I was certain my eyes were deceiving me. Surely this was one of those books, I reasoned, that furthers the stereotype that citizens of Appalachia are—to borrow the author’s language—toothless, inbred morons.  

Like a typical hillbilly, I’m wary of outsiders who dismiss my home region as ignorant, racist, and hopelessly trapped in an antebellum time warp. I grew up in the hills and hollows (“hollers”) of northeast Georgia, in a small town where God and country—for better or worse—is synonymous with socio-political conservatism.

My kinfolk are plainspoken people who work on construction sites and farms. They butcher meat in grocery stores, repair electrical lines after major storms, teach in local schools, and care for the lawns of “outsiders” with expensive homes. They listen to George Jones and shop at Walmart.

After NAFTA passed in 1993, many lost their jobs, and my family’s business was hit hard by the Great Recession in 2008. My people, like Vance’s, are redneck, blue-collar, white middle class—a significant religious and voting block in America.

Not the Beverly Hillbillies

It took less…

To read the rest of this article, visit https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-reviews-hillbilly-elegy.