Stereotypes must crumble

Published 10:11 am Friday, July 23, 2010

While the unassuming author may not be in a typical position of power, people like Marilyn Schraff are vital to the future of Appalachia.

Why? Because her recollections and stories, now collected in the book “Appalachian Childhood,” can help break down stereotypes and false perceptions about the men and women who call the region home.

Defining Appalachia geographically and culturally has always been difficult. As identified by the Appalachian Regional Commission, Appalachia includes 420 counties and eight cities in 13 states.

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That encompasses all of West Virginia and portions of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Originally Appalachia was meant to define this region in terms of cultural heritage and a way of life personified by close-knit families, rural lifestyles and conservative values.

However, the negative stereotypes grew to grossly exaggerate some cultural problems including bootlegging alcohol, family battles, inbreeding, intelligence levels and extreme poverty.

Our region has come a long way in the past 40 or 50 years, mostly overcoming these false perceptions and showcasing those positive traits that help make the region special and also somewhat unique.

People like Schraff can help this cause by continuing to break down those barriers.

Regardless of whether you plan to read her book or not, everyone should appreciate it because of the positive impact it can have on the region we all love.