Oprah was poor, but she worked hard and now she is a billionaire. Get her and emerald studded ribbon.
Anyone can grow up to be President. Look at Congress and see if you can find a single poor person. Look again and see if you can find anyone who is not a millionaire. No ribbons here.
46.5 million American live in poverty. They are not all stupid or lazy. They are not all illiterate or crazy. They are not all criminals or drug addicts. They are employed, many work several jobs. They are fiercely loyal to family and to home. They go to church, they go to work, they go to school, and they persevere at all costs. Where are their voices?
One place to hear them speak is in the writing of Scott McClanahan. McClanahan's Crapalachia is gracing many an independent "Best of 2013" list, and well it should. Truth be told, it should be on every award list this year. Subtitled, A Biography of a Place, Crapalachia takes the reader to McClanahan's West Virginia. A small town in a rural place, scared by coal and violence, and overflowing with love and imagination.
The young Scott McClanahan lives with his grandmother, Ruby, and her son Nathan. Nathan is grown man relegated to the life of a child. His cerebral palsy has confined him to a wheelchair, a feeding tube, and his mother's house. It doesn't stop him from trying to get his nephew to slip him a beer through his feeding tube or to help him with a personal ad. Of his grandmother McClanahan writes:
"She knew how to do all kinds of things no one else knew how to do...She knew how to make biscuits from scratch and slaughter a hawg if she had to. And she knew knew how to do things that are all forgotten now --things that people from Ohio buy because it says handmade on the tag. I looked at the quilt she was working on. The quilt wasn't a fucking symbol of anything, It was something she made to keep her children warm, Remember that. Fuck symbols."
After moving in with a friend as he tries to finish school. His friend, Bill, rails against homosexuality after catching a cousin engaged in the act and quotes Leviticus. McClanahan reminds him that such behavior tends to run in families and all this talk of the Old Testament make him sound Jewish. Then one day he sets up and email account: ourlordandsavior@hotmail and sends Bill an e-mail:
"Dear Bill:This is the lord...I am disappointed in your recent conversion to Judaism...
P.S. Please quit skipping school so much."
Bill is a bit surprised to get an e-mail from Jesus.
Unlike some of his friends, McClanahan finishes school. Like may people who grew up in small towns, he left for the big city. But he comes back and he writes a biography of this place.
"I tried to remember all of the people and phantoms I had ever known and loved. I tried to make them laugh and dance, move and dream, love and see...but I couldn't."
It is cliché to say a book is a roller coaster ride. Crapalachia is big old Tilt-A-Whirl of a book, spinning you one way, then the other. It leaves you dizzy and exhilarated and a bit nauseous and wondrously happy. Crapalachia is funny. At times you will laugh out loud. Crapalachia is painful. So painful that at times you will want to stop reading. Don't. Keep reading. Read everything Scott McClanahan writes.