Oct. 15, 2022 – Barbara Kingsolver speaks politely but is unmistakably angry. “We have a generation of kids growing up here without parents, because so many of my people are incarcerated or addicted or dead,” she tells me.

She’s referring to the US opioid epidemic — addiction to prescription painkiller drugs — which is the subject of her new novel Demon Copperhead, the story of a boy growing up from the 1990s into the new millennium, with every card stacked against him.

But who, I ask, does she mean by “my people”? Kingsolver lives in Appalachia, a rural area covering parts of 13 US states from southern New York to Mississippi. “There is enormous condescension in my country of rural people against urban people,” she says. “If people from the mountains, ‘hillbillies’ as we’re called, show up on television at all, we’ll be the ignorant backwoods degenerate, the butt of every joke. It’s either that or a poverty documentary.”


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