Common Reading, Fall 2017: Hillbilly Elegy

The Mandel School has selected Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance as its common reading book for new Fall 2017 social work and nonprofit management Master’s students.

This faculty-selected book addresses a range of social problems and touches on many ideas and issues many of Mandel School students will encounter in the curriculum throughout the year. Vance’s story is a personal one, but it is also the story of a region and a community. This book provides an opportunity to talk about micro and macro levels of intervention as well as the role of nonprofit agencies and organizations.

​Over 15 books were nominated and considered for this year’s common reading. The final selection was taken from the list of seven books below:

  • Between the World and Me (2015) T. Coates
  • Why are they angry with us? Essays on Race (2015) L. Davis
  • The Gentleman from Ohio (2016) L. Stokes
  • Fire Shut Up in My Bones (2014) C. Blow
  • Hillbilly Elegy: Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis (2016) J.D. Vance
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) R. Skloot
  • Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-five Years Among the Poorest Children in America.(2012) J. Kozol

There are two sets of objectives for the use of a Common Reading. 1) Create an opportunity for the discussion of content relevant to social work and MNO students; 2) Increase interaction among students in the Mandel School degree programs and formats; and 3) Increase interaction among students and faculty.

The other set of objectives concerns the curriculum and includes the following: 1) Increase shared examples for discussion in the classroom; 2) Increase common experiences among various degree program students; and 3) Increase common experiences among students in all program formats.

A non-fiction memoir, Hillbilly Elegy addresses multiple layers of issues relevant to student learning – poverty, upward mobility, drug abuse, family dynamics and person in community.  It addresses the range of micro/macro issues and provides a window into rural, white poverty. This book will also give the Mandel School community an opportunity to examine and discuss issues relevant to the current political and social divisions in the country.