By Elizabeth Catte
In 2016, headlines declared Appalachia ground zero for America's "forgotten tribe" of white working class voters. Journalists flocked to the region to extract sympathetic profiles of families devastated by poverty, abandoned by establishment politics, and eager to consume cheap campaign promises. What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is a frank assessment of America's recent fascination with the people and problems of the region. The book analyzes trends in contemporary writing on Appalachia, presents a brief history of Appalachia with an eye toward unpacking Appalachian stereotypes, and provides examples of writing, art, and policy created by Appalachians as opposed to for Appalachians. The book offers a must-needed insider's perspective on the region.
Praise for What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia:
"Small presses across Appalachia and the Rust Belt consistently publish, to little fanfare, incredibly diverse work — books that are lush, gritty, surprising and so very true. Perhaps the best example, or certainly the best place to begin, is Catte’s “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.” This edgy, meticulous work of nonfiction from Cleveland’s Belt Publishing dispels many myths about the region." Leah Hampton, The Los Angeles Times
"Catte’s slim, very readable volume is like a more focused version of Howard Zinn’s venerable A People’s History Of The United States, turning its lens to the on-the-ground civic struggles of people who have lived and died in Appalachia." Laura Adamczyk, The A.V. Club
"A 146-page ass-kicker." Jim Branscome, The Daily Yonder
"What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia is a brief, forceful, and necessary correction." Frank Guan, Bookforum
"A spiky polemic." Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker
"You couldn't kill this book with a hammer. Come and watch Elizabeth Catte clip the hollow wings of little jimmy vance. Stay and behold an enlightened vision, a living solidarity found among the strong and varied peoples of this misunderstood land. What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia asks Florence Reece's old question: Which side are you on? Some of us are sticking to Appalachia until every battle's won." Glenn Taylor, author of The Ballad of Trenchmount Taggart
"What are we getting wrong about Appalachia? A lot. And we are not just getting it wrong because we do not know. We are getting it wrong because reckoning with the reality of the Appalachia people and culture serves a historical project of disdain, distancing, and deliberate disinvestment in our nation. Elizabeth Catte has written an essential guide on how to talk about race, class, gender and the cultural geographies that shape our lives. Our discourse on Appalachia has been used a cudgel, much of it designed to obscure more than it reveals. Catte uses data and lived experiences to reveal an Appalachia that is not some 'othered' out there against which we compare ourselves to make inequality more palatable. This is a necessary antidote to the cyclical mainstream interest in Appalachia as a backwards, white working-class caricature.” Tressie McMillan Cottom, Professor of Sociology, author, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy
"Fiercely argued and solidly grounded, this an excellent primer on understanding and resisting the common distortions about Appalachia’s past and present." Anthony Harkins, author of Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon
Elizabeth Catte is a writer and historian from East Tennessee. She holds a PhD in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and is the co-owner of Passel, a historical consulting and development company.
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