I know many of us are feeling like we want to do something to make a difference in this post-election environment. Including developing a better understanding of what would lead people to vote the way they did.
I'd like to propose we start an MMM book club to focus on the social issues around inequality and civic engagement in the US (and in the world, but I think given what has happened many of us US folks will want to start here).
My suggestion for the first book: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.
Here is the link on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Hillbilly-Elegy-Memoir-Family-Culture/dp/0062300547
And a the summary from the back cover, also on Amazon:
"From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class through the author’s own story of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town.
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In HillbillyElegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.
The Vance family story began with hope in postwar America. J.D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country."
My hope is that by starting with a book like this we can "seek first to understand, then to be understood." Vance comes from the community he writes about, but has entered the privileged elite. His story/perspective may provide a useful, empathetic, but not uncritical angle from which to understand what is happening in our country.
Let me know if you'd like to join me in reading/discussing this book over the next few weeks. I'm also open to other suggestions, but this is the one I am most keen to read. So much so that I am going to print out my 15% off coupon and run over to B&N to buy it today.