Eleven stories of community, exploitation, and resilience in Appalachia

Today, Hillbilly Elegy, the film adaptation of J.D. Vance’s 2016 book of the same name, arrives on Netflix. The critical consensus is that it’s not worth your time. Of course, if you’ve followed our work at Belt Magazine over the past six years, you knew this was going to be the case; Belt’s writers (both here at the magazine and over at Belt Publishing) have spent years laying out all the ways Vance and company get Appalachia wrong. And if you’re new to the Belt universe, well, now you know.

So, rather than watching that film—and since you may be looking for something else to do while you’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday at home—we’d like to suggest reading the following stories instead. Here are eleven pieces, selected from among an extensive Belt archive of Appalachian stories. Call it the Anti-Hillbilly Elegy Reading List. Each one skips the classism and clichés to take a nuanced, context-driven look at the challenges and opportunities facing the region, and the smart, engaged people living there.

-Ryan Schnurr, editor

Support independent, context-driven regional writing.



Passive, Poor and White? What the Media Keeps Getting Wrong About Appalachia
By Elizabeth Catte

Poem: Still Life, Ohio Valley
By William Scott Hanna

Beyond ‘Trump Country’
By Emily Comer


The Poisonous Legacy of Portsmouth’s Gaseous Diffusion Plant
By Kevin Williams

What the Petrochemical Buildout Along the Ohio River Means for Communities in the Region
By Sharon Kelly

A Mother and Daughter’s Thirty-Four-Day Stand Against the Mountain Valley Pipeline
By Mason Adams


West Virginians Are Reinventing Broken Foodways
By Annie Chester

Can Elk Heal Coal Country?
By Ashley Stimpson

Photos: West Virginia’s Recovery Boys
By Rebecca Kiger


When the World is Remade, Make it Like Appalachia
By Alison Stine

Why Shame Coal Country’s Progressives?
By Elizabeth Catte



Cover image by Rebecca Kiger.

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