Two men, each easily associated with the word, “Hometown,” are literally shining a spotlight on American communities devastated by addiction, poverty and lack of hope.
Former Middletonian, author J.D. Vance, knows first-hand “the demons” of a “chaotic family history.” (*)
His New York Times best-selling memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” recalls a childhood with a “drug-addicted mother, absent father and eventual upbringing” by the beloved grandmother he affectionately calls “Mamaw.” (1) His is a story that many can relate to.
These days Vance is determined to do something about the grim reality that haunts so many Ohioans. That’s why he’s returned to his home state and formed “Our Ohio Renewal,” a “non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the state’s opioid crisis and bringing high-quality employment and educational opportunities to Ohioans.” (2)
Today the 2003 Middletown High School graduate, former U.S. Marine, Ohio State University and Yale University Law School graduate, author and investor calls Columbus home. (3)
Vance’s gripping memoir appears destined for an even greater audience.
Ron Howard, the Academy Award-winning movie director and former child actor, is busy adapting ‘Hillbilly Elegy” to the big screen.
Howard is familiar with images of small-town life in America. His beloved TV persona, young Opie Taylor, and other characters on the classic “The Andy Griffith Show” personified hometown values in fictional Mayberry, North Carolina. (4)
The director recently visited Middletown to search for sites that could double as settings in his film adaptation of “Hillbilly Elegy,” which was published in 2016 by Harper. (5)
If the film adaptation is as riveting as Vance’s memoir, the movie may become one for the ages.
What distinguishes “Hillbilly Elegy” from other autobiographies is Vance’s frank, no-holds-barred narrative. He begins by describing his family’s departure from Appalachian Kentucky “in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them...” (6)
“...But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D. grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and most of all his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty and trauma so characteristic of their part of America...” (6)
Unfortunately, problems like those that affected Vance’s family afflict many others.