Author(s): J.D. VanceDownload
Publish: Published June 28th 2016 by Harper
ISBN: ISBN 0062300547 (ISBN13: 9780062300546)
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.
But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
Some Reviews: 217,957 ratings 22,605 reviews in Goodreads.com
The inequality of wealth may force the less fortunate to angrily search for radical, nonsensical answers (presidential candidates?). I suppose this weak extrapolation is the political aspect of the book for some.
It is important that our social welfare system intervenes in families that are in crisis early on. Early childhood education, substance abuse rehabilitation services, family mentors, and child protection leading to familial or foster care, are necessary if we are to break the cycle.
Mr. Vance is one lucky, smart, tough cookie to have escaped the negative influences of his upbringing and to follow the lead of those positive role models that believed in him.
Despite my fascination with this memoir, in retrospect, I think the parts about the mindset of the Trump supporter were added as a hook due to the book being published in the midst of our election season. But that doesn’t make the observations any less true. Highly recommended for residents of Ohio or those who grew up there.
“Well, not the South,” I try and explain. “The culture. The way the Christianity is just…cultural and everyone is a Christian so no one is.”
More confused looks. I try again.
“I mean, obviously, there are real Christians. But, like, there is an expectation everyone is a Christian. And because of that, the church just means white-picket churches and…snake handlers!”
Okay, so I can’t explain what it means to live in the Appalachian mountains. But you know who can? J.D. Vance.
This book was amazing and everything I’ve tried – and failed – to express about my experience as a Yankee attending college in the South. But you know what, it is better because this isn’t a stranger looking in. This is someone from the culture honestly communicating what it is like.
He talks about hopelessness and poverty and overcoming the odds. It is honest, gracious, and only too real.
I love his book. I cannot recommend it enough. Very well written and real. 5x5x5,000 stars.
I listened to this as an audiobook read by the author and could hear the pain in recalling his mother’s erratic behavior. He was lucky he had his older sister and grandparents to provide a safe haven and some semblance of stability. The author’s journey should be an inspiration to all, especially to those who feel marginalized.