Wow Claudia, I’m really happy that you felt so impacted by my comment! I’m still not confident in my ability to write anything but poetry/fiction (definitely a side effect of growing up in a community where they told us to not even try on the couple of AP tests we were offered in highschool), and I don’t really feel like I’m doing a good job of saying what I want to say — but your comment makes me feel like I did well. Thanks!
A group of teachers like yourself helped me break out of my shell a bit in undergrad. I worked really hard to pursue engineering because that seemed like the easiest way to get on in life considering the circumstances, but I was lucky enough to meet people who got me to think critically and engage with the humanities. I’m 100% a better person because of it. One of these days I’d like to be able to return the favor, possibly by teaching the humanities to kids in STEM programs that might not encounter them otherwise.
I’m sorry to hear that you got caught up in the adjunct cycle. I know a lot of really intelligent and hardworking people (who also just happen to be amazing writers and theorists) who are facing similar situations. I hope you find a good academic home full of smart/interesting people to think with. I definitely understand what it feels like to be restrained in a small town, too.(I’m a little upgraded right now, since I’m living in the college town I mentioned in my response, but the MFA people keep strictly to themselves and I don’t really have any outlet for poetry ouside of Medium and Scribophile.) I can garuntee that whatever town you’re in is better for having you there, though, and it sounds like you have a good group of like-minded people to talk with! If you can, I would love to know how the group reading goes.
And thanks for the great suggestions! I’ve been browsing Wilkey’s blog whenever I can get a break at work today, and I really like some of his posts. His reading suggestions look useful, too. I’ll have to check out Where All Light Tends To Go tonight for sure, since I’ve been looking for a good response to Hillbilly Elegy for awhile now. They teach it at the college nearby without putting it into the context Wilkey is working in, and a lot of the kids (and academics who teach it to freshmen) seem to come away from the classes believing the basic idea that rural poverty is self inflected and deserved. More than anything, I feel the need to combat that myth. White trash people definitely need to acknowledge how we have negatively impacted society and work hard to reverse those aspects of our rural communities — there’s no debating that — but poverty is never deserved.