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A Helpful Guide for Hillbilly Elegy

Welcome back Badgers! While we are easing our minds back into “school mode,” it’s also the perfect time to integrate Hillbilly Elegy into your Spring course!

Welcome back Badgers! Now it’s time to think about integrating Hillbilly Elegy into your course. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

Hillbilly Elegy contains many themes that are relevant to various kinds of courses here at UW-Madison, and these complex and relevant themes hold the potential for great discussion within each course. A list of themes with page references has been posted on the Go Big Read resources page to assist course understanding and discussion of the book.

To help out instructors, the Go Big Read team has created a Book Discussion Toolkit. Within the Book Discussion Toolkit are Hillbilly Elegy discussion questions, book discussion guidelines for facilitators and participants, planning a book discussion, a program goals handout, and general book information. This toolkit will help spark conversation and how to go about covering some potentially sensitive or difficult topics.

HarperCollins has generously also provided a teacher’s guide for Hillbilly Elegy. The guide contains guided reading questions for each chapter and potential writing prompts.

A list of reviews, interviews, and related books has been created by Madison Public Library and is also listed under our Resources page for potential discussions and other sources to use within conversations surrounding Hillbilly Elegy. 

Go Big Read has created a Resource page to help with Hillbilly Elegy understanding and discussions.

If you are thinking about integrating Hillbilly Elegy into your course or are looking for further resources while reading the book, this resource page is here to help you!

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

Integrate Hillbilly Elegy into your Spring Course!

I know what you’re thinking… Winter break is just about to begin, so why are we mentioning Spring semester already?

Believe it or not, Spring semester is approaching fast! If you’ve been busy thinking about the holidays or planning your winter vacation, take a quick second and sign up to integrate “Hillbilly Elegy” into your Spring course!

Integrate “Hillbilly Elegy” into your Spring course today! CC Image Courtesy of Jeff Miller.

With themes like gender roles, poverty, childhood trauma, stress and health, globalization, and many more, “Hillbilly Elegy” tackles a lot of relevant topics that are discussed in various courses here at UW-Madison.

Critical reading and engagement are necessary to explore the author’s themes, explore points/research discussed, and reflect. We expect lively discussion, debate, and further research to be possibilities within courses. It is a book to help ground a discussion on many difficult contemporary issues.

It’s never to early to get the ball rolling! Sign up on the Go Big Read site today.

We wish you the happiest of holidays!

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

Two UW-Madison Professors Investigate Childhood Trauma Effects

“‘It’s not that people are overtly deciding to take these negative risks, or do things that might get them in trouble… It may very well be that their brains are not really processing the information that should tell them they are headed to a bad place, that this is not the right step to take.'”

Seth Pollak, a UW-Madison psychology professor has spent years studying the effects of stress on children.

Adults who endured high levels of stress within their childhood have difficulty reading signs of potential punishment or loss, which makes them vulnerable to certain avoidable health, legal, and financial problems.

According to a study conducted by researchers at UW-Madison, this problem may in fact be biological, stemming from certain inactivity in the brain where a situation should be triggering awareness.

This discovery may help educate at-risk youth to avoid risky situations.

Pollak and an additional UW-Madison psychiatry Professor Rasmus Birn conducted an experiment with 50 people aged 19 to 23. These participants participated in a previous study with Pollak when they were 8 years old. The participants were those who endured high stress levels as children, such as parents killed by gunfire or substance abuse, maltreatment, and foster home placements.

The study was conducted by two UW-Madison professors. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

The participants were put through several tasks while their brain functionality was measured for activity areas of loss, risk, and reward in the brain.

Results showed that high childhood stress participants were less attentive to a potential loss situation than the low childhood stress group, and were more stimulated by losses. The high-stress childhood group also reported more risky behaviors- smoking, not wearing a seatbelt in a car, or texting while driving- compared to low stress participants.

To the researchers’ surprise, it was solely the participants’ childhood stress level, and not the stress in their current lives, that was a predictor of their abilities to identify potential losses or avoiding risky behaviors.

“’So many of our behavioral interventions are predicated on the idea that people will understand there’s a sign they’re about to be punished,’” Pollak said. “’Maybe we need to rethink some of those things.’”

The researchers plan to further investigate their findings and continue researching this topic.

“’Now that we have this finding, we can use it to guide us to look at specific networks in the brain that are active and functionally connected,’” Birn said. “’We may find that childhood stress reshapes the way communication happens across the brain.’”

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

The Opioid Epidemic Hits Close to Home

We’ve discussed the opioid epidemic several times- whether it be on a national level, looking more closely at Hillbilly Elegy, or hearing more about it at the Keynote Event last month.

The opioid epidemic has also caught the attention of Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, but there has been another group in the Madison area that has been focusing on this problem for years.

The opioid epidemic has been affecting the Madison community. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

In a recent article following the progress of this group, it revealed that Safe Communities recognized this detrimental problem in Wisconsin as early as five years ago. They have increased the number of MedDrop boxes in the past several years, which has shown to be a huge help in recovering old medication.

Safe Communities also helped launch the recovery coach program and are hoping to expand it outside of SSM Health’s St. Mary’s.

Safe Communities is located right in the Madison area. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

“They know about the pain and they know sort of how low people can feel and then, how hopeful they can be,” Cheryl Wittke, Safe Communities executive director, noted. “Having that message has made a big difference and we’ve seen 90 percent of folks who are going through that process sign up for treatment.”

While a lot has been accomplished to recognize there is a problem, Wittke believes there is a lot that still needs to be done.

“There’s a lot more to be done and things are not good. We’re not seeing a reduction in overdose deaths currently. I guess maybe the good news is we’ve seen a slowing in the rate of increase,” Wittke said.

There was a Stop the Overdose Summit on November 6th that created a to-do list and new goals for the upcoming months.

To learn more about how to combat the opioid epidemic in Madison, feel free to check out the Safe Communities website.

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

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