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