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One Book One DU

One Book One DU
Hillbilly Elegy Book Cover

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

by J.D. Vance

One Book One DU

One Prompt

Your response to One Prompt is the beginning of your DU education. In reflecting on where we come from, we can better understand where we are, and where we're going. To that end, we ask that you take time to think deeply, to become comfortable with discomfort, and, above all, to approach the world mindful that our takes on it are colored by our experiences in it, and that a little empathy can go a long way in creating true understanding. 


In his introduction to Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance offers an apology and a warning: "this story is, to the best of my recollection, a fully accurate portrait of the world I've witnessed [. . .] but I am sure this story is as fallible as any human memory." In telling his own story, Vance must accurately and responsibly tell the stories of those whose lives intersect with his own. He notes the immense responsibility he's tasked with: "if I leave you with the impression that there are bad people in my life, then I am sorry, both to you and to the people so portrayed."

In telling the stories of others, we must render their perspective with generosity and honesty; we must show the good and the bad. In order to fairly and accurately tell other people's stories, we must empathize without projecting our own experiences onto theirs. It's a challenging task, but an important one.

So: Think of a person whose story has left a deep impression upon you. Tell their story.


  • The One Prompt response can be an oral retelling, a performance, a written piece, or a visual production.
  • This doesn't need to be a "profound" plot; in fact, something "small" (some slice-of-life vignette) might well yield a more interesting story.
  • Setting the context is important: who were you—where, how, and why?
  • Try and give readers/viewers a vivid sense of what happened. You can use imagery, dialogue, and scene setting to render the story for us.
  • The only format requirement is the ability for your One Prompt response to be uploaded to Canvas. Students will be sent directions on how to access Canvas on August 1st .  Please submit your project to Canvas (first-year students) or your Orientation Leader (transfer students) by August 27th, 2017 . If you must delay submission of your response, please email your orientation leader to let them know.