Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November 14: West Virginia

I read Shiloh when I did my apprentice teaching, to a 4th grade class of suburban folks and farmers over in Illinois. And then I saw the movie with another class, a few years later, and it felt wrong. There was something wrong about the depiction. And I realized it: they had sanitized the family's poverty and made them essentially upper middle class folks with hunting licenses. Poverty isn't a character in that book, but it is definitely present. The movie had changed it for our own comfort.

I felt like it didn't do right by the story. Or by all the kids who would read that book and feel a connection.

How many stories get changed for our comfort? How many folks don't say what is killing them from the inside, for our comfort? How many of us watch as people pass by and don't see it? How can they not see? How can this have been going on?

West Virginia, after all, feels like every kid I didn't do right by. I can name them. But it would drive me into a self-indulgent melancholia with no method of revolt.

West Virginia darkness covers my skin
Loneliness and cold are breaking me


  1. I agree about the movie vs book. I think the movie makers didn't think a film that showed the poverty as it was in the book would sell as well as the toned-down version.

    I've been to West Virginia many times, but have not gone to the places where there is much poverty. I have seen it in Mississippi and rural Pennsylvania though.

  2. Lots of books/historical facts etc are changed in movies to make Americans (US of A's) more comfortable.

    It's something I am familiar with. So I agree - it's wrong for people's truths to be hidden. I also feel that way every time an infertility storyline ends in an IVF success. In fact, I might link to this post from my No Kidding blog, if that's okay?

    1. Absolutely.

      I was thinking about my own job, in a high poverty urban school, and how the only stories you hear about these sorts of places are the heroic teacher biopic or the pull up your own bootstraps student story. But there's hardly any of that. And there's a lot of everyday sorrow, violence, frustration, and burnout.