Relentless forces and bootstraps

Sam Venable shares anecdotes and some personal reactions to Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance in this episode of the Books Sandwiched In podcast (edited from his January 25 remarks). This compelling memoir looks at the struggles, attitudes and dysfunction in an economically declining area of America. Vance was born in rural eastern Kentucky, but grew up largely in Rust Belt Ohio. Although his grandparents succeeded in generational upward mobility—they moved north for manufacturing jobs that are now disappearing—the family continued to struggle in the middle class with the same issues that they had tried to leave behind.

A newspaper columnist and author of twelve books, Venable is a native of Knoxville and a graduate of the University of Tennessee. He has won more than three dozen national and regional writing awards, including the national feature writing award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his 2014 series, "Fragments of Hate."

About the Podcast

Show artwork for Knox Pods
Knox Pods
Podcasts of Knox County Public Library

About your hosts

Profile picture for Melissa Brenneman

Melissa Brenneman

Melissa listens to hours of podcasts on most days. She started the habit with the intention of taking long walks, but podcasts proved to be more addicting than exercise. She records, edits and mixes podcasts for the library.
Profile picture for Alan May

Alan May

Alan May works as a reference librarian at Lawson McGhee Library. In his spare time, he reads and writes poetry. May's most recent books are Dead Letters (2008) and More Unknowns (2014). His poems have appeared in The New York Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, The New Orleans Review, Plume, and others.