Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy

A Memoir of A Family and Culture in Crisis

Book - 2016
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"You will not read a more important book about America this year."--The Economist

"A riveting book."--The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."--David Brooks, New York Times

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.

Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780062300546
Branch Call Number: 305.562 VANCE J
Characteristics: 264 pages ; 24 cm


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kkoenigc Oct 11, 2017

Mr. Vance shows us firsthand what it is like growing up in Appalachia and why it is so hard for someone who grew up as he did to succeeed.

Sep 25, 2017

My book club read this book, and we all liked it. I was suspicious of it, because it sounded like the stereotypical bashing of poor people as lazy and greedy. But it was poignant and heartwarming to see the author overcome obstacles. Here are some links that helped me understand the book:

1, Interview with the author, explains his present life https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/25/hillbilly-elegy-jd-vance-barack-obama-interview
2. Another point of view about poor people: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/syndicated-columnists/article170871167.html
3. New Yorker review: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-lives-of-poor-white-people
4. A report on upward mobility in rural areas https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/es_20170905_ruralmobility.pdf
5. Another explanation for Trump's victory: https://www.thenation.com/article/economic-anxiety-didnt-make-people-vote-trump-racism-did/

Sep 24, 2017

It is amazing the author turned out to be a seemingly functional, apparently successful, human being, given the rough circumstances of his upbringing. Sadly, his upbringing is all too common in most of the US and creates real challenges for the children living this way to find a way out of the sad state of "normal" in which they find themselves. I read this because it was hyped so much, but it was really difficult to read because his reality seemed so dismal.

Sep 23, 2017

A friend in New Zealand who hosts the World's Best Book Club (it really is the world's best) recommended this book to me.

I write a blog for survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. J.D. Vance shares remarkable wisdom and insight into why and how a few kids achieve the American Dream despite horrid childhood experiences of abuse, neglect, and poverty.

His insights aren't new. But, they are remarkably candid, direct, and credible. I've read hundreds of stories about people who survived, thrived, and found joy. But, this is the first book which reveals the common thread in the lives of people who have emerged successful: at every critical juncture in his life, he had someone who was enormously protective and helpful. He always knew he was loved unconditionally. It makes all the difference.

Alice Miller calls these people "enlightened witnesses." J.D. Vance uses the term "social network." They are people who tell kids like J.D. that they aren't responsible for their parent's failures. At the same time, these people teach a child how to have a different outcome in life. A child's ability to thrive and be successful in life turns directly on how many of these people are available to help the child navigate life. He might forever be a hillbilly at heart, but he's now also a polished and highly successful professional due to the guidance, protection, and unconditional love he's received along the way.

If this book interests you, you might also like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years by Sadie and Bessie Delany, Alice Miller's books, and It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Sep 14, 2017


Sep 11, 2017

Uh....skip it. This is a book that doesn't know it's direction. It does have good parts, but those are too few and far between to make this overall worth while to read. I think the main problem is that it's divided into three separate parts:
1. Kid growing up as a hillbilly. This section is actually really well written. It's interesting and overall the most compelling part book. If the whole book was written with this same passion, I would have loved it. It's a hard look at a life that many of us don't experience first hand, thank god.
2. Oh my gosh, can you believe I am at Yale? This entire section is full of "x happened but I'm a hillbilly so how do I handle this? But oh well, I got the job/beautiful wife/interview/help from this professor anyways!" This section although obviously formative in his life (OMG, Yale!) there is not a lot of substance and seems like he basically had to add this section to up his page total
3. They need to help themselves (because I'm a Republican and did it on my own) but I have no suggestions! This section also seemed off and not cohesive. He does make interesting points about giving back and that college is not the path for everyone but offers zero suggestions how to improve people actually effected by opiod abuse and economic hard times. I by no means have the answers but I also didn't write a book about it either.

Overall, it would have been presented better in a collection of essays as opposed to trying to turn it into a "cohesive" narrative.

Sep 09, 2017

It's an OK book, but I read it because I heard it explains why so many working poors supported Trump. Honestly I didn't find the answer there.

Aug 29, 2017

I can't say I found this book to be as engaging as many others. In fact, I am kind of amazed it made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. I had sympathy for the author who had a difficult youth, but the book read as dryly as a sociology 101 textbook. To be honest, I didn't finish the book. I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't.

Aug 27, 2017

An elegant look at the trials and tribulations of the "Hillbillies" of the Appalachian mountains.Though ultimately successful in life the author describes the knife edge of circumstances and decisions that allowed him to succeed over others whom he grew up around. A very Human story that is quick to read and hard to put down. Well worth reading.

Aug 16, 2017

This book was hard to put down. JD's insights into the Appalachian people and culture were thoughtful and thought-provoking. I think about that part of the country a little differently now, thanks to his anecdotes and analysis. I'd love to read a memoir he writes 10 years from now, when he is further removed in age and distance, and perhaps has kids of his own. Overall, a great read.

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Mar 17, 2017

runningbeat thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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