The University of Wisconsin announced Tuesday New York Times bestselling book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” will be the 2017-18 Go Big Read, in an effort to prompt discussion of poverty and its psychological impact across campus.
Author J.D Vance said in a UW statement the book is his account of growing up in a region and class experiencing “serious economic disruption.” After World War II, Vance’s family moved from Appalachia to Ohio in an attempt to escape poverty, but found that difficult.
“I want people to know what it feels like to nearly give up on yourself and why you might do it,” Vance said. “I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children.”
“Hillbill Elegy” is the ninth book in the Office of the Chancellor’s Go Big Read program, which has been working to prompt thoughtful campus discussions since its introduction in 2009. The book will also be made into a movie directed by Ron Howard.
The book looks to prompt similar discussions to last year’s Go Big Read book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by UW alum Matthew Desmond. The book, which won Desmond a Pultizer Prize in early April, also discussed the impact of poverty on American families, particularly in communities of color.
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Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in the statement UW looks to make people think about economic and political issues with Vance’s book.
“The point is to generate a lively conversation about a set of important issues, about which people can agree or disagree,” Blank said.