Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

August 7, 2019 - Comment

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF “6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP’S WIN” AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD “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 Hillbilly

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF “6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP’S WIN” AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

“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

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported 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 one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his 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.

Comments

Anonymous says:

I find his book offensive to us that grew up in the south in poor areas. This book is why most people believe … Born and raised in Kentucky not the mountains but had friends and later worked as a social worker for the”hillbillies” that Mr Vance talks about. He has wrapped himself in this cloak about being a hillbilly when in essence he isn’t one. His grandparents lived the life in Kentucky he didn’t. First off I don’t believe any of the people I knew or worked with would appreciate being called a hillbilly to explain away ignorance, violence and drug addiction. Too many of these people are the…

Anonymous says:

Fell short of expectations I did not enjoy this book at all.That’s not true. I thought I hated this book until I started writing the review.Then I had to admit there are observations Mr. Vance makes that are alien to a portion of the population and that I had different expectations when I began the read. I upgraded my review from a two to a three. I still feel this book could have been better.The author has every right to be proud he made it out of poverty to become a successful…

Anonymous says:

An edifying and inspiring, if also troubling at times, read. There is a lot to take in here, even for someone that’s seen this life up close in many of its many guises.While ostensibly about the particular culture of the West Virginia Scots-Irish underclass, anyone that has seen white poverty in America’s flyover states will recognize much of what is written about here. It is a life on the very edge of plausibility, without the sense of extra-family community that serves as a stabilizing agent in many first-generation immigrant communities or…

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