I have just made my discovery for March: Elizabeth Catte, a history teacher at Middle Tennessee State University, whose specialty is defending our region of the world from the right and left and anybody who thinks we’re “hillbillies.”
Hers is a persistent and elegant defense, exemplified by her article today in Salon (here) that takes on “liberal elites,” who want to wrap all of us in Appalachia as ignorant hayseeds who mindlessly voted for Donald Trump and his house of horrors view of government.
She writes for some of the more popular outlets in the country, but her blog is a consistent pull (here). She seems to understand our culture, our people, our reasons for doing what we do. She understands that we don’t have wildly differing goals, opinions and views from the rest of America and that our culture here is neither backward, nor out of tune with the rest of America.
Her defense reminds me of that of Sharyn McCrumb, the Roanoke-based novelist with a huge national reputation, who consistently and eloquently defends us against those who so carelessly trash us and our culture.
Ms. Catte notes that we have liberal pockets, that we have thoughtful people, that we are as educated as people anywhere else, that we do, indeed, have an Appalachian culture (which in my view is disappearing), but it’s Irish/Scottish-American, not some inbred alien-influenced weirdness (unless you get into the snake-handling Christians). I would bet my first-born male child that Ms. Catte can pronounce Appalachia, as well.
Knoxville native Ms. Catte, who wrote the forthcoming What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, and earned her PhD from MTSU in 2015, wrote eloquently about the Women’s Marches all over Appalachia (10,000 in Asheville, 25,000 in Pittsburgh, 1,000 in Blacksburg, 3,500 in Roanoke) shortly after Trump’s inauguration here. Seek out some of her writing and read it carefully.
She understands us because she’s one of us. That’s rare.
(* Yes, she had me at the red hair.)
(Elizabeth Catte photo from http://www.allthepeople.net/elizabeth-catte)