​2018 Spring Campus Book Discussion: Hillbilly Elegy

Chapter 3

This chapter continues the exploration of Vance’s family history.   He describes the psychological impact Hillbilly culture had on his grandparents.  Although it appeared they had achieved the American Dream in terms of wealth, the pressures of trying to fit into a middle-class lifestyle had a grave impact on them.  Although they had acquired more wealth, they still had an impoverished mindset.  His grandmother, having suffered numerous miscarriages, locks herself from the outside world and becomes a hoarder.  His grandparents develop a maladaptive lifestyle that looks good on the outside, but wreaks of destructiveness from the inside.  Sexist tendencies of Hillbilly culture made it socially acceptable for a man to go out drinking while the woman maintained the home.  Mamaw rejects this as a way of life for herself and shows resistance.  She becomes what she calls “a crazy bitch" (41).   His grandfather, having settled into a middle-class lifestyle, spends money lavishly and was known for his drunken, raucous behavior.   Papaw’s bouts with alcohol led to violent fights between him and his wife.  What becomes clear in this chapter is that money alone did not solve the problem of poverty for Vance’s grandparents.  Failure to deal with the deep-rooted psychological issues led to problems passed down to their children.  Their daughter, Lori, was often truant from school and experimented with drugs.  And though she graduated at the top of her class, Vance’s mother, Bev, got pregnant at eighteen and ended up marrying the baby’s father.  Later in life Vance’s Papaw gave up drinking and although he and Mamaw were separated, they eventually learned to get along respectfully, even though they no longer lived in the same house. 

Poverty and Health

Poor in Poor Health
This fact sheet from the Institute for Research on Poverty shows the link between poverty and healthcare. It is no surprise that those who have more wealth are in better health than those who are poor. The article provides several reasons for this, including 1) lack of access to healthcare 2) lack of adequate prenatal care among women 3) exposure to environmental pollutants 4) poor housing 5) unemployment 6) stress and social isolation and 7) food insecurity, just to name a few.

Financial Conditions and Healthcare Burdens of People in Deep Poverty

Food for Thought

Lacking material wealth is one form of poverty. What are other ways people can be "poor"?

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