Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy

A Memoir of A Family and Culture in Crisis

Book - 2016
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Vance, a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, provides an 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. 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. 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.
Publisher: New York, New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, ©2016.
ISBN: 9780062300546
Characteristics: 264 pages ;,24 cm.


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Dec 09, 2017

I think the only thing I'd add to others' excellent comments is that I wonder how much of Vance's profit from this book winds up back in Appalachia. The story is excellent, but not entirely his. He writes of a suspicion of outsiders' writing...feels a little too clever and advantageous for him to be able to claim, from New Haven and San Francisco, to be an "insider." Maybe it's because I was born in Kentucky that I'm suspicious. Maybe I feel some guilt that, like Vance, I left for the Ivy League and may never make it back. Does he feel that guilt? Does it motivate him to at least send checks back? I don't completely doubt his character...I'd bet Mamaw gets a check. I just wonder whether the region as a whole benefits much from his telling the region's story. I hope so.

Dec 05, 2017

It's interesting to see that, though Vance is from southwest Ohio, he's given many people here the impression that he's from Kentucky or West Virginia. But southwest Ohio is indeed a region populated by hillbillies. Perhaps more insight into the area may be had by reading "Knockemstiff," a book of short stories by Donald Ray Pollock, about an area that had a serious pill problem before it became fashionable to talk about opioids.

Dec 04, 2017

one of the best books I've read for years . The persistence of a culture of poverty

Nov 27, 2017

This story describes the mindset of the people of a part of Kentucky and many other coal-mining areas with surprising and revealing clarity. Why do these people persist in living in poverty and ignorance of the world around them in this day and age? They are shown to even sabotage a better job which is offered to them in order to return to their "roots" and live on food stamps and welfare. They appear to believe that the government should look after them and provide for them as they've always been looked after in the past - i.e. low-paying jobs in the coal-mining industry. They refuse to see that technology is progressing so fast that their way of life is doomed and yet still don't want to move on. They still want to live as their fathers and grand-fathers did. The poverty, violence and drunkenness is all taken for granted as the way life has always been and will always be. I quit reading the book about half way through as it was becoming too repetitive. The 3 star rating might have been lower if I'd finished the book.

Nov 27, 2017

This was a thought provoking , interesting book. I liked it a lot!

Nov 20, 2017


Nov 18, 2017

This book has gotten a lot of buzz, a memoir of the Ivy league educated hillbilly. It is ultimately unsatisfactory because he has no suggested solutions to the malaise gripping the Rust belt.

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.

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Mar 17, 2017

runningbeat thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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