An outsider on Egypt, and insiders on Appalachia

Can an outsider, even one who has spent five years in the country, tell the story of post-revolutionary Egypt? That’s a question the Egyptian writer Yasmine El Rashidi considers in The New York Times while reviewing a new book from The New Yorker contributor Peter Hessler (author, incidentally, of an excellent trilogy of books from his last post, China: River Town, Oracle Bones and Country Driving). Her conclusion: that Hessler offers “something that no Egyptian could ever really write, and in that way, he adds alternate dimensions to a story, or the stories, of this place we call home, with all the good intentions of simply his own singular viewpoint and experience”.

  Can one writer who grew up in Appalachia define the whole region? Should the place be seen only through the eyes of JD Vance and his bestseller Hilbilly Elegy (subtitled “A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis”)? The answer, in a new book, Appalachian Reckoning (West Virginia University Press), is a resounding “no”. Meredith McCarroll, co-editor of the book with Anthony Harkins, says their collection of dozens of voices from the mountains is designed “to create a snapshot of a place and a time that makes it impossible to believe the idea [that] Appalachia is dead and in need of an elegy”. The website The Bitter Southerner has a piece from McCarroll and an extract from the book.

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