If you’re teaching Hillbilly Queer, or discussing it with members of your book club, consider using the following questions, prompts, and activities as a guide.
Which character in Hillbilly Queer do you most relate to and why?
Talk about the first time you heard the word hillbilly.
Talk about the first time you heard the word queer.
Social class is a major theme in Hillbilly Queer, and it is threaded throughout flashback and present-day scenes. Connected to this theme, J.R. writes about education being the great equalizer but also the great divider. How do you perceive the relationship between education and social class?
LGBTQ+ acceptance has evolved over the past two decades, and as J.R.’s story unfolds we see this through his relationship with his dad, Dave. Are there parts of your identity that others have come to accept over time?
Race is a social construct but racism is not. What role did race and racism play in this story? How did race and racism impact the identities of the characters and what were the implications? Is racism uniquely American, or it a global issue?
The intersections of identity play a critical role in the narrative arc of Hillbilly Queer. What advantages do the characters have due to identity? What disadvantages do they have? Do J.R. and Dave come to accept the parts of themselves they have hidden?
J.R. writes about understanding privilege as being a privilege itself—reserved for those with the means and access to materials/knowledge. Do you think this is a fair assessment?
As the story of Hillbilly Queer unfolds, what similarities did you see between J.R.’s and Dave’s stories? What differences did you see? Did the characters develop and evolve over time?
Think back to the 2016 election cycle. Who is someone you disagreed with politically but still loved? Would you have taken a trip with them at the height of the 2016 election? What about taking a similar trip at the height of the 2020 election?
Freewriting is a tool for reflection. Topics are given, and the writer writes whatever comes to mind during a period of time without stopping (even if it’s only “I don’t know what to say . . .” over and over until something about the topic surfaces). The goal here is to write freely without an editor’s mind. Using the following 10 topics, choose five and write for five minutes on each. Then, with a partner or in a small group, discuss patterns and similarities that emerged from your free writes.
- Political versus cultural differences.
- Racism in America.
- Classism in America.
- The great divide.
- Connecting across difference.
Write Your Own Story:
Tiptoeing into someone else’s world takes courage and empathy. Using The Facing Project’s model of writing/storytelling as a guide (see the model here) sit down with someone else who has a vastly different view than you, have a conversation, and write a 750-1,000 word story from their point of view (and they can do the same with you). Then do the following: 1.Use the story as an opportunity for further discussion. 2.Submit the story to The Facing Project for others to learn from your experience/story (using the link above). 3. Post excerpts from your story on social media using the hashtags: #hillbillyqueerchallenge#facingproject #mystory