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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Title: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Author: J.D. Vance
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: June 26, 2018
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

Vance’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love.” They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.

Delving into his own personal story and drawing on a wide array of sociological studies, Vance takes us deep into working class life in the Appalachian region. This demographic of our country has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, and Vance provides a searching and clear-eyed attempt to understand when and how “hillbillies” lost faith in any hope of upward mobility, and in opportunities to come."


My Two Cents:

"Hillbilly Elegy" is a memoir of sorts by J.D. Vance. It talks about his childhood and his family in Appalachia where the term "hillbilly" seems to be a name to take pride in. I will admit that I had heard a ton about this book in the aftermath of the election in order to help "explain" some of Trump's base. There are many different factors but this book definitely explains some of those factors and is fascinating in that regard. Vance grew up in Ohio and Kentucky in areas marred by economic and often social despair so he if very familiar with the subject.

The best books for me are the ones that force you to chew things over and to think long after you close the book. This is one of those books for me. It makes you go from understanding to trying to mull over fixes to being bewildered about what you're reading. Even after reading this, there is a confusing juxtaposition present. On one hand, this group will push away outsiders without a second glance but drop everything to help others in the community if needed. They want help but claim to be against receiving anything called a hand out. It's a complicated issue and anecdotally, Vance seeks to give us a little insight into how this happens.

Many in the community that he grew up in will not have the chances that Vance had. Vance joined the military and went to school and was able to start a good, solid career through having support but also a lot of luck. The differences between his personal story against the stories of many of the people in his family and friends that he grew up with are especially stark.

This book did leave me with the question of what do we do to overcome the obstacles in this book. While I feel like I understand a little bit better, I still have a lot of questions. For me, it's not a question of how you get people to feel differently and to therefore vote differently but it's more of a question as to how you fix the ills that the people in the book face. By attacking those problems, you start to change mindsets but this book really doesn't address that. This book is very much a good picture of a place that was unfamiliar to me.  


 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds complex and interesting, one I would enjoy.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete

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