Last night I watched the first part of the three part documentary Country Boys on PBS (if you missed it, you can watch it online). It broke my heart and also made me homesick.

I did not grow up in the Appalachians where this film takes place, but I grew in an area quite similar socio-economically–farming and mining country, though the mines were all shut down, the boom towns busted, and many of the miners and their families left behind to find other work (like prison guard). Some of the kids on my bus had no indoor plumbing. One family used an old billboard as part of their roof–the younger children hanging out on the porch in shitty diapers, with liter Pepsi bottles in their hands. Many families smelled of the woodsmoke from the woodstoves they used for heat all winter.

Horrible things happened to some of these kids but you only heard about it through the grapevine. Usually you just pretended that horrible things did not happen. Until one day, a girl a grade higher from me turned in her father and a couple of her brothers. They had been molesting her for years. But you never would have known it from her constant smile.

It was not an easy place to live but it was a beautiful place and that is what I notice when I watch this documentary. These kids living through trauma and heartache and poverty but still finding something to believe in. Finding some hope. It is gorgeous.

The filmmaker, David Sutherland, is the same one who made The Farmer’s Wife (if you’ve not seen it, check your local library, which likely has a copy), which is a film that broke my heart in a similar way.

On the flip side, I am reading the book Prep, which does not break my heart or make me feel homesick because it is so far from my experience that it might as well be science fiction. Prep is partly about privilege and partly about being on the outside of privilege (although this is not fully believable as the narrator is living a privileged life whether she wants to believe it or not–especially when one compares her to the children in the documentary above).

With that said, it is highly readable and entertaining. My problem is not at all with the writing. The main problem I have with it, is that the protagonist always allows herself an out, thus she never really calls herself on her bad, sometimes cruel, behavior–not even in her dark moments. With that said, I’m not finished it yet, so she may redeem herself.

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