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Elegies And Effigies: Who Speaks For Appalachia?

A man reads a newspaper in a restaurant in Booneville, Kentucky.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
A man reads a newspaper in a restaurant in Booneville, Kentucky.

Appalachia. It’s been called Trump Country, coal country and backcountry. But it’s our country.

This region — defined both by proximity to its namesake mountain range as well as the culture that developed there — is usually presented to the nation through the work of translators: visiting journalists on assignment or locals who have escaped and can reflect on their hometowns from a safe distance.

But one person’s experience can’t possibly represent all 25 million Appalachians. Take, for instance, the most famous Appalachian translator of our times, J.D. Vance. His book “Hillbilly Elegy” is a bestseller that could land him in the U.S. Senate. But it also has a significant number of Appalachian critics who say his message misses the mark.

In this show, we look at what it means to be Appalachian, and why a region that touches more than 10 states and hundreds of counties can’t have one spokesperson.


Elizabeth Catte, Historian; author of “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia”; @elizabethcatte

Roxy Todd, Reporter West Virginia Public Broadcasting; co-producer, Inside Appalachia; @RoxyMTodd

Steve Almond, Author of “Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country;” co-host, New York Times Dear Sugars podcast; @stevealmondjoy

Crystal Good, Artist, poet, entrepreneur; member of the Affrilachian Poets; @cgoodwoman

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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