We’re Talking Human Lives Here

Jan Rader in conversation with Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Photo by Rebecca Kiger for Netflix

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We’re Talking Human Lives Here

Jan Rader in conversation with Elaine McMillion Sheldon

by Jan Rader, Elaine McMillion Sheldon
Southern Cultures, Vol. 25, No. 3: Left/Right

"Open your eyes, talk to us. We'll tell you what we did wrong. We'll tell you what we did right."

Jan Rader: There’s probably not a day goes by that somebody doesn’t come up to me and tell me a story. They come up and they say, “Thank you.” But what they really want is to talk about a loved one that is suffering or a loved one that they lost. I feel like Heroin(e) [and] your film Recovery Boys have given people a positive light in which they now have permission to talk about this horrible trauma that they’ve experienced in their lives. I don’t know why we stigmatize this so much as a society, but we have, and I hope that changes.

We have a whole population of people—not only in Appalachia, but in this country—that have been marginalized . . . people treated like second- or third-class citizens are not even treated human. I think that the film Heroin(e) and the way we are perceiving and treating people is giving them a voice, and it’s giving people permission to talk about this horrible problem that’s causing collateral damage. >

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