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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and…

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

by J. D. Vance

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It's odd to read a memoir written by someone who is only 31, but his life is so strikingly different than mine (and almost everyone I know) that I'll forgive him his age. He describes the hillybilly way of life and view on the world, as he experienced it. Most of the people that he grew up with lead rather desperate lives. Vance has the unfailing support of caring adults, especially of his scary hillbilly grandma, and some luck, and manages to move on into situations that will better his life. Late in the book he is having dinner with law firm recruiters who have come to Yale law school. He recognizes how out of his depth he is, and slips out to call a friend for social pointers. I wonder if any of the recruiters, plunked down in hillbilly culture, would have done as well. There are no easy answers to the social and economic problems that this group of Americans faces. Vance points out that governmental social programs, while well intentioned, tend to do more harm than good. ( )
  SilverKitty | Mar 25, 2017 |
An interesting personal perspective on entrenched disadvantage in white 'hillbilly' communities. I do not find this memoir particularly illuminating or that it drew attention to problems that were unknown. I suspect the popularity of this memoir comes from the author's achievement of the American Dream while explaining how hard it is for 'hillbillies' to achieve this dream. ( )
  kale.dyer | Mar 22, 2017 |
From the title, I was expecting this to draw a broader picture of hillbilly culture. Instead, it was mostly an autobiography that focused on the author and his dysfunctional family. As such, it was good in a Horatio Alger sort of way but as a cultural overview it fell short. I thought his credibility suffered when he offered up reasons "Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities", that included his wearing suits, being a good father, his wife telling us what to eat, but never mentioning his race. The closest he came was in citing "conspiracy-mongers and fringe lunatics", who write about Obama's...ancestry. Talk about white-washing the truth. ( )
1 vote wandaly | Mar 21, 2017 |
I did not enjoy this book while the theme was one I was interested in, I felt it went on too long and didn't take any definitive stance. ( )
  AstridG | Mar 21, 2017 |
Growing up a poor hillbilly in the US. Vance is able to hold the views of both individual responsibility and lack of opportunities in his head at the same time, which makes for a thoughtful and intelligent book. Vance made it despite difficult circumstances, but considers that to be the case mostly due to two caring grandparents and several other strokes of luck along the way. Recommended. ( )
  ohernaes | Mar 20, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. D. Vanceprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carlson-Stanisic, LeahDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, JarrodCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Mamaw and Papaw, my very own hillbilly terminators
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My name is J. D. Vance, and I think I should start with a confession: I find the existence of the book you hold in your hands somewhat absurd.
Like most small children, I learned my home address so that if I got lost, I could tell a grown-up where to take me.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062300547, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 03 Jul 2016 02:21:10 -0400)

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