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


From the critics

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May 17, 2018

This book is not Appalachia! It is the story of one family. There is so much more to be said about the thriving culture, history and perseverance of Appalachian communities. If you are looking for a book that explains the last election check out The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America... it is from 2013, but does a great job of depicting the struggles of poor and rural people over the past several decades

ehbooklover May 09, 2018

I wanted to attempt to understand what led to the results in the American election and I'd heard that this book would fit the bill. It had some interesting insights, however, it was not what I expected. Instead, it focused more on the author's own personal experiences and his life. A great read about the importance of family ties, whatever your circumstances.

May 07, 2018

This book is a must read for new readers wanting to be informed regarding the Appalachia region and socioeconomic turmoil. It is very easy to see through the author yes, he is a conservative and some people have commented to say the author is in someway justifying the
"Alt right" or neo-nazi/white supremacy. To think that, I say this is incorrect. If you read this book with an open mind and realize that not everything he says applies to all but is just a small example of the trials and troubles of people of this region and minority regions. To be honest, I find the author a bit pretentious, hypocritical but his story is still intriguing. It definitely has a survival bias theme to it; however to people that are not exposed to these problems or are far removed from it it is a must read because it's a start to understanding each other in an objective manner and not in an identity politics dog vs. dog world that we appear to living in. Overall read this and try to expand your knowledge I will look into the other books that were mentioned in the comments below mine.

May 05, 2018

Required reading.

Apr 13, 2018

This author associates with and supports the cause of white supremacists, which is to exterminate people who are not white. As if that isn't bad enough, this work blames the very victims of poverty rather than the causes of it. As someone who has personally experienced a childhood of poverty in Appalachia, I know there are far better books to read like Ramp Hollow and What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia.

I found this story boring. I am sorry he had such a difficult childhood but this is not especially well written, nor does it provide social analysis, other than the obvious need for meaningful work and decent education systems in the state. It is sad that there are such communities of adults who cannot control their anger or take responsibility for their children and for their environment. Only the intellectually gifted escape... sometimes.

Intrigued because I knew of several people reading this, I did so myself. It's not bad. It's generally well edited and moves briskly, particularly the first half. I noticed that I lost sympathy with the author as he moved beyond junior high school. Once in the U.S. Marine Corps and then onto Ohio State and from there Yale Law he becomes like every other cocky salesman you have had the misfortune to be seated near at a restaurant during a lunchtime rush. I would like to think otherwise but HILLBILLY ELEGY is nothing more than RAGGED DICK for the present age. It's no wonder that an interview with Vance in The American Conservative magazine was key to popularizing the book.

Jan 12, 2018

Excellent, great writing and would read again

Jan 11, 2018

3 stars - This book garnered so much media buzz as a "must read to understand the lives of Appalachian poor white folk". Well, this story did some of that, but you have to understand that it's foremost an autobiography of the author's struggle to move beyond the rocky shores of his particular upbringing. On that level it's an impressive story, though told through unexceptional prose. In the end I felt let down that there was little attempt by the author to circle back on the larger story of how today's Appalachia might -- or might not -- be a different place than it used to be.

PimaLib_LaurenH Jan 04, 2018

I grew up in the deep south and I was really hopeful about this book. Unfortunately, I hated it. It was deeply condescending and hard to get through for that alone. I know this one's really popular, but if you're looking to gain a better understanding of the working class South/Appalachia, this book ain't it.

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Add Notices

May 07, 2018

Other: Topics: Inequality, Race, Religion, Education, Mental Health (Substance Abuse)

May 05, 2018

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Frightening and intense scenes.

May 05, 2018

Sexual Content: Strong sexual content.

May 05, 2018

Violence: Strong violence.

May 05, 2018

Coarse Language: Strong language.


Add Age Suitability

May 04, 2018

LThomas_Library thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

Mar 17, 2017

runningbeat thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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Jun 28, 2017

In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck. 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.


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