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Category: Go Big Read 2017-2018: Hillbilly Elegy

A Potential Solution for Multi-generational Poverty

Multi-generational poverty has proven to be a tough cycle to break. In a recent Washington Post article, it follows a Maryland County and their effort to end this multi-generational poverty. Maryland lawmakers proposed a new approach: integrate services such as early childhood development, temporary cash assistance and mental health programming.

This new approach looks at the needs of a family as a whole, rather than viewing children and parents separately. Legislators are calling this a two-generational approach.

“This is a process for working toward benefiting whole families,” Sarah Haight, the associate director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, said Tuesday.

A preview of the interactive map. Image Courtesy of the New York Times website.

The issue of multi-generational poverty was a significant theme in this year’s Go Big Read selection, Hillbilly Elegy. Vance chronicles the struggles of growing up in a poor neighborhood in Appalachia, and how it is difficult to move out of this cycle.

“And it is in Greater Appalachia where the fortunes of working-class whites seem to be dimmest. From low social mobility to poverty to divorce and drug addiction, my home is a hub of misery” (4).

J.D. Vance and his half-sister, Lindsay, growing up in Ohio. CC Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

Like Vance’s neighborhood, many of the families in Maryland grow up in poverty. “Recent census data shows that the number of Maryland children living in poverty would fill 2,434 school buses,” explained Nicholette Smith-Bligen, an executive director of family investment within the Maryland Department of Human Services. “That’s saying to us that this program (the two-generation approach) is critical.”

Allegany County, in a rural area of Western Maryland, is where 20 percent of the state’s population lives in poverty. The county has begun to view their local system with this new two-generation approach. Many departments in the county have collaborated with each other to create a Head Start center, GED classes and financial education programs.

This opportunity allows families to have a plan with services to use as an outlet.

Multi-generational poverty is a monstrous problem in the United States, and it has proven to be difficult to diminish. However, if this new two-generation approach proves to be continuously successful, other states may follow in Maryland’s footsteps.

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Go Big Read Program now Accepting Book Suggestions

It’s that time of the year again… the Go Big Read Program will now be taking suggestions for the 2018-2019 Go Big Read book!

Starting in 2009, The Go Big Read Program has grown immensely and allows for both UW-Madison students and the Madison community to spark discussions around the selected book.

An array of past Go Big Read book selections. We have come a long way!

Title suggestions for the book will be accepted through Dec. 15, when a review committee will take all suggestions into consideration before handing recommendations off to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who makes the final decision.

The ideal selection should have the following qualities:

  • Be readable, relevant, engaging and well written.
  • Appeal to people with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
  • Encompass sufficient depth and scope to generate discussions from different points of view.
  • Be conducive to teaching and learning, and offer opportunities for integration into academic programs.
  • Lend itself to a variety of activities and programming.

The selection could be both fiction or non-fiction, preferably published within the past five years. Although some book selections, such as “Evicted” two years ago, have been Wisconsin-focused, that is not a requirement.

You can submit a book suggestion through the Go Big Read website.

Book suggestions can be made through the Go Big Read website.

The Go Big Read program looks forward to seeing what suggestions you can come up with!

 

Childhood Trauma and its Potentially Detrimental Effects

“‘Chaotic — there is no other way to describe my childhood. I always felt alone.’”

Rob Sullivan, now an adult, still remembers the traumatic events from his childhood that impact him every day. In an interview with the New York Times, Sullivan discusses how the trauma in his life as a child has led him to hardships in his adulthood.

Running into trouble with the law as an adult, Sullivan believes that he is responsible for making bad decisions in his own life, although experts claim that this troubling path may begin long before the individual recognizes it.

What happens to a child in their youth can affect their decisions as an adult- whether that be ending up in prison or even their overall cognitive functioning.

“’Childhood trauma is a huge factor within the criminal justice system,’” said Christopher Wildeman, a sociologist at Cornell University and co-director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. “’It is among the most important things that shapes addictive and criminal behavior in adulthood.’”

As seen in Hillbilly Elegy, author J.D. Vance describes traumatic events of his own childhood that still affect him and his relationships today.

“In my worst moments, I convince myself that there is no exit, and no matter how much I fight old demons, they are as much an inheritance as my blue eyes or brown hair” (230).

Author J.D. Vance pictured with his grandmother. CC Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

Childhood trauma affects everyone differently, but for both Sullivan and Vance, the troubling memories from their childhood do not fade away with age.

Both Sullivan and Vance completed questionnaires that measured the degree of childhood trauma, criteria including physical and verbal abuse, abandonment, and several others, and the two of them scored relatively high.

In Sullivan’s case, there have been many connections to those in prison and their experiences with childhood trauma.

New York Times study followed 10 newly released prisoners in Connecticut for a year, Sullivan being one of them. A look at their histories demonstrated that before they were prisoners, many of them were victims of abuse.

Seven of those 10 completed a questionnaire to quantify the level of childhood trauma they experienced, and all but one scored four or more, indicating a high degree of trauma and an elevated risk for chronic diseases, depression, substance abuse, and violence.

Although traumatic childhood experiences affect individuals differently throughout their lifetime, most adults remember many of the traumatic events they experienced. For Sullivan, he has run into trouble following some patterns of previous family members, such as substance abuse and prison. Although it is a grueling process, he hopes to turn his life around for the better.

Child trauma affects the lives of many adults today. CC Image Courtesy of Pixabay.

“’I have never followed through on anything in my life,’” he said, tears in his eyes. “’It’s hard. I know if I end up back in the streets I will end up drinking and using again.’”

Undoubtedly, childhood trauma has been scientifically proven to affect individuals in their adult years. It will be interesting to see what kind of continued discoveries we will read about childhood trauma moving forward and possible solutions for this serious issue.

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

The Wisconsin Book Festival is Here!

The time has come, folks- the Wisconsin Book Festival starts today!

It’s the 15th Anniversary for the Wisconsin Book Festival, and the schedule is set. There are a plethora of events planned for this four day celebration, centered at Madison Public Library.

Conor Moran, the Festival Director, is especially excited about the kinds of discussions that many will hold close to their heart- whether it be race, immigration, climate change, or gender equality. This fall’s lineup has something for everyone!

The Wisconsin Book Festival is a large part of the Madison community, hosting events not only in the fall, but all year long. Some of its partners include Ian’s Pizza, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore, and of course Go Big Read!

Originally, the festival started as just a four-day event, but has seen a monstrous amount of growth ever since. The festival now holds events throughout the entire year. Both local authors and national writers will be in attendance. Over the next four days, approximately 70 authors will be in attendance. Amy Goldstein, the author of Janesville: An American Story is one of the most anticipated authors for many of the Wisconsin Book Festival attendees.

Come check out the Wisconsin Book Festival from 11/2-11/5. CC Image Courtesy of the Madison Public Library website.

There’s books and discussions for everyone to engage with. Genres range from poetry to STEM and provide books for all ages.

For a list of authors and the full schedule, check out their website.

It’s bound to be an exciting weekend for us bookworms!

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Go Big Read Book Fairy Giveaway

Keep your eyes peeled around campus these next couple of weeks- the Go Big Read team will be giving away a limited number of copies of Hillbilly Elegy!

Copies of Hillbilly Elegy will be left around the Madison area, especially places on campus that have shown the Go Big Read Program support. There are only a limited number of copies available, so follow our social media (@GoBigRead or Go Big Read on Facebook) to keep up with clues as to where we have left them!

Look for this Go Big Read tag… if you found one, you’re in luck!

The books will be wrapped in red and white ribbon (always representing UW-Madison colors, of course), and will be attached with a Go Big Read tag. If you’ve found one of these, you’re in luck! The book is yours to keep.

Starting next week, Go Big Read team members will start to leave copies of Hillbilly Elegy around campus. Keep your eyes peeled for clues!

We were inspired by the lovely Emma Watson and her book fairy project several months ago in support of International Women’s Day.

Emma Watson hand delivered books to special places. We’re about to follow in her footsteps! CC Image Courtesy of Emma Watson’s Twitter page.

With a limited amount of books to spare, the Go Big Read team wanted to give them away in a fun way. What’s better than stumbling upon a free copy of Hillbilly Elegy after a long walk up Bascom? It could be you!

Stay tuned to hear more, and keep an eye out on our social media for clues about where the books will be! It all starts next week!

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

Capitol Lakes’ Captivating Hillbilly Elegy Exhibit

The Go Big Read team was extremely grateful to have residents of Capitol Lakes contribute a Hillbilly Elegy exhibit. We couldn’t have done it any better ourselves!

The exhibit was shown outside the doors to Shannon Hall last Monday.

Although the exhibit mainly focused on the present Go Big Read book, Hillbilly Elegy, past Go Big Read picks were displayed in the exhibit as well. They can be seen at the bottom of the display, including old promotional posters for several of the books. It’s exciting to see the transformation from year to year!

A close up of the exhibit. This part shown mainly focuses on Hillbilly Elegy themes and details.

Certain aspects of the exhibit, like the image shown above, give clues into themes and details present in Hillbilly Elegy. Mountain Dew, law texts, a war veteran hat, and a map of Middletown, Ohio, are all shown to represent parts of J.D. Vance’s life. Want to know more about these items? The Capitol Lakes exhibit states that you’ll have to read the book in order to find out!

Capitol Lakes offers information on other various Hillbilly Elegy discussions nearby.

The display also offers helpful information on other various Hillbilly Elegy discussions around the Madison area and where an individual can obtain their own copy of Hillbilly Elegy if interested.

The exhibit provided lots of helpful and interesting information about the Go Big Read program and Hillbilly Elegy. A big thank you once again to the residents of Capitol Lakes! We greatly appreciate it.

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Hillbilly Elegy Panelist Keynote Event Recap

On Monday night, Professors Kathy Cramer, Katherine Magnuson, and Aleksandra Zgierska took to the stage to discuss political, social, and health issues present in Hillbilly Elegy. 

Professor Kathy Cramer, speaking first, noted that this book has raised questions for its possible connection to the 2016 presidential election. However, Cramer hinted towards approaching that perspective with caution.

“It’s become a little bit of a myth that the white working class was responsible for the election of Trump,” Cramer said. “We need to be careful about jumping from this book to assumptions about Donald Trump supporters.”

Professor Kathy Cramer. Image Courtesy of the UW-Madison Faculty website.

Professor Katherine Magnuson followed Cramer’s remarks with a discussion on poverty, especially between generations in rural areas. A map was displayed on her presentation that illustrated how difficult it was for families in different areas to overcome inter-generational poverty.

She mentioned that of those born into the bottom 20 percent of wealth within the United States, only a mere 4 percent make it to the top percentage of wealthy Americans within their lifetime- a concerning statistic.

A preview of the interactive map. Image Courtesy of the New York Times website.

Last to speak about a very highly anticipated topic was Professor Aleksandra Zgierska. She tackled the stigma around drug addiction and the impact that opioids have on Americans today.

She worries that with the increasing numbers of overdoses increasing so rapidly, the problem is going to have to hit an all time low before it starts to get better. However, she still remains hopeful in breaking the stigma around addiction and getting individuals the help that they need.

“There’s a lot we need to do to break the stigma of addiction, to break the misconceptions that exist out there, so that we can help people reach out for help and get the help they need,” Zgierska said.

The event closed with a Q&A session between panelists and audience members. Although brief, questions included those of successful immigration into the US, tips for combating opioid addiction, and if placing “blame” for issues within the political system is a beneficial tactic.

A huge thank you to the panelists who participated in the event and everyone who joined to discuss Hillbilly Elegy. The Go Big Read team enjoyed seeing so many people expressing their interest in Hillbilly Elegy and wanting to discuss these topics with the Madison community.

The recorded video will be posted to the Go Big Read website shortly.

Until next year!

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Panel of UW-Madison Experts to Speak Next Week

Clear your schedules… on October 9th at 7:00 p.m., UW-Madison’s Go Big Read Program will host a Panelist discussion of themes and contemporary issues discussed within Hillbilly Elegy.

The event will take place in Memorial Union Theater at Shannon Hall. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

Both UW-Madison students and Madison community members are welcome! The event will be open to the public, and no ticket is required to attend the event.

The panel will first discuss common themes within the book that are also current issues in society, such as poverty, childhood development, drug addiction, and trauma. A Q&A session will follow the panel discussion.

Copies of Hillbilly Elegy were distributed at Freshman Convocation. CC Image Courtesy of Jeff Miller.

The panel of UW-Madison experts consist of political science Professor Kathy Cramer, who will tackle politics and cultural anger revolving around common themes within Hillbilly Elegy. Family Medicine Assistant Professor Aleksandra Zgierska, whose research focuses on opioid addiction and treatment will cover those topics. Professor Dr. Katherine Magnuson  will discuss stress and poverty within childhood development.  Professor Russ Castronovo will then mediate a question and answer session with the audience and panel members.

Can’t make it? Don’t worry. The entire event will also be livestreamed through the Go Big Read website. There will also be live commentary from the Go Big Read Twitter account.

Go Big Read logo.

You can find more information about the event on the UW-Madison news page. 

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Our Ohio Renewal Tackles Significant Problems in Ohio

After spending some time in the flourishing city of San Francisco with his wife Usha, J.D. Vance has returned to his home state of Ohio. He has begun creating his nonprofit, Our Ohio Renewal, to combat many of the issues he grew up with.

“I just think those of us who think we have something to offer have a responsibility to try to help,” Vance said in a December Spokesman Review article.

Vance aims to focus on combating issues of the opioid epidemic and work development, which in his opinion, are connected to each other and are of top importance in Ohio.

Our Ohio Renewal Logo. CC Image Courtesy of the Our Ohio Renewal website.

In an interview with the Philanthropy Roundtable Organization, Vance opened up about how he aims to improve such significant and complex issues with the nonprofit.

“On the opioid-abuse front, we’re identifying the things that have been tried, from prevention programs to physician training to treatment options, and trying to understand how well they are working…” Vance explained.

For workforce development, Vance centered in on the importance of diversifying employment positions and the issue of a volatile economy.

“Creative destruction opens opportunities for people to do new things, to contribute to the economy in new ways, and to have new jobs that are just as important and just as dignified as the jobs that people had years ago…” Vance noted. “We need to have plans that include trades jobs, and advanced manufacturing, and manual work of many kinds.”

Vance also touched on the importance of community within the interview. To him, community is a large component of a flourishing state. Community in businesses and neighborhoods provides people with areas of support and a sense of purpose. He aims to improve this feeling of support with Our Ohio Renewal.

Vance believes that improving domestic and familial conditions can have a large impact on the overall state’s success.

Author and founder of Our Ohio Renewal, J.D. Vance. CC Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

“When kids grow up in very unstable families, they are more likely to bring instability to the next generation when they make their own family,” Vance explained. “They’re less likely to graduate from high school, and less likely to be employed as an adult.”

Vance aims for a more hands-on approach with his nonprofit. Instead of just policy changes, Vance believes that involving the community can be more effective.

“Where civil society can be most helpful is in giving people real networks and social groups that can support them when things are tough—offer them access to better opportunities, to jobs, to activities in their community,” Vance said.

Although Our Ohio Renewal is in its early planning stages, Vance is committed to helping the people of his hometown state. By moving back to Ohio, he can fully immerse himself in the problems at hand. To him, falling back on the government is not the best solution.

“These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else,” Vance contends. “We created them, and only we can fix them.”

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Childhood Trauma Shown to Shorten Lifespan

“Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today,” explained Dr. Robert Block, former President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a Ted Talk given by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris on the effects of childhood trauma throughout one’s lifetime, she revealed that childhood trauma increases the risk for seven of the ten leading causes of death in the USA.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris giving her Ted Talk. CC Image Courtesy of the Nadine Burke Harris website.

For those who are exposed to high levels of childhood trauma, life expectancy is 20 years shorter. They are also three times more likely to develop heart disease and lung cancer.

Dr. Burke Harris then summarized what she has been studying: adverse childhood experiences, referred to as ACEs, and their effect on health throughout one’s lifetime. ACEs include:

  • physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • physical or emotional neglect
  • parental mental illness
  • substance dependence
  • incarceration
  • parental separation or divorce
  • domestic violence

For every ACE that applied to the participant, they would get a point on their ACE score.

According to the study, 67% of the population has experienced at least one ACE.

The study then revealed that the higher one’s ACE score, the worse their physical and mental health outcomes tend to be.

It has been shown that growing up in lower income households often presents more severe levels of trauma for children. Unfortunately, this is a common dilemma for many. One out of every five children is born into poverty, and the cycle is difficult to break.

As seen with our 2017 Go Big Read bookHillbilly Elegy, author J.D. Vance grew up in a low-income household, facing adversities, which impacted his life as an adult.

Author J.D. Vance pictured with his grandmother. CC Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

Not only is it more likely for children in poor families to posses a high ACEs score, but it has also been noted that being raised in a low income household disturbs children’s brain development and academic performance.

In his memoir, Vance explained that when his mother moved him away from the comfort of his grandparents, he was unable to sleep, had depressed feelings, and his grades plummeted.

According to an article on the effect of childhood poverty on development and educational outcomes, children in chronically poor families have “lower cognitive and academic performance” and higher levels of behavior problems than children who are not poor.

It is painfully clear that childhood trauma and the environment that the child matures in can have a lifetime effect on their health and development. Although there have been large numbers of studies on these effects, finding a solution is not as straightforward.

However, Dr. Burke Harris remains hopeful.

“This is treatable. This is beatable… We are the movement.”

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office