Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir Author:J. D. Vance 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 American... more »s. 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.« less
Having been born in Hillbilly country myself, I had to read this book and see just what it was all about. I can relate to some of the circumstances that J. D. writes about and to a degree he and I have similar lives, but I did not go to Harvard Law School, but I did escape the circumstances that surround this Hillbilly culture. However, I too still embrace the significance of having grown up in this culture. Its a warmly, refreshing and heartwarming story and the author takes great pride in his heritage, as do I.
If you (or someone you love dearly) are from this culture, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
Being a native Kentuckian, I thought it was really well done. Captivating, not textbook-y (but he does manage to throw a few useful statistics in there), and pretty darn telling. My social work self wants to take this further, but as a memoir, this is fine. This is good and this will open people's eyes. This is his lived experience - and I think he also nails it in regards to the hillbilly culture in some ways. There is this desire to be fiercely independent, and yet is increasing not independent.
The story of a conservative "hillbilly" (his words not mine) who graduated from Yale Law after growing up in Appalachia and the Rust Belt. He was the son of an absent father and a single mom addicted to drugs and men. He was mostly raised by grandparents that pushed him to do better, get a good education and provided the only stability in his life. He studies why he is the only one from his community to graduate from an ivy league school . Although I don't agree with all his conclusions, he makes a compelling comparison of the lives of urban minorities with the lives of the white working class of Appalachia and the Rust Belt.. Factory towns full of addiction, teenage pregnancies and hopelessness. Factories pulling up and leaving to go overseas. The story of America. Good read. I recommend it.
I usually love memoirs but found Hillbilly Elegy dry at times, repetitive and it didn't make sense to me chronologically how he would throw in his views on poverty and politics. I wish the book was written as a memoir until the end and then there was a chapter on how he feels as an adult about his life, looking back and what can be done to help children in poverty. I just didn't connect with the book at all and at times was rushing through it to get it over with.
Great book. I taught in Appalachia many years ago and worked with the families of the children I taught during the summer as well as during the school year. This book accurately describes the lives of people living in the areas and the hardships they endured.