This is an important and compelling book that deserves to be read alongside or instead of What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte and Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. Like Catte, Wilkey teaches history, and his essays do provide historical background, more focused on issues than heroes. However, his approach is much more autobiographical than Catte’s. Like Vance he admits to the meanness of his grandmother and the addictions and abuse suffered by his mother. Actually, his story is even more harrowing than Vance’s in many ways, including the fact that his mother married seven times. Yet he never succumbs to any hint that he sees himself as singular or heroic for making it out of poverty and into the academic world. Read this book for background on issues like drugs and guns and poverty and for a very personal approach that will engage and ultimately uplift you. The book is a compilation of Wilkey’s blog posts on his website: This Appalachia Life that is distinguished not only for its essays but for its bibliographies that demonstrate that his life reaches well beyond his native Appalachia. Joshua Wilkey lives with his wife in Jackson County, North Carolina, and teaches history and works as an administrator at Brevard College. I only wish the title had more appeal and the book had better backing from a mainstream publisher.
Sylva, North Carolina: self-published, 2018. 123 pages. Trade paperback