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

by J. D. Vance

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"I learned that no single book, or expert, or field could fully explain the problems of hillbillies in modern America. Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith."

Vance's depictions of the characters that make up his extended family are rich and the stories of his childhood in industrial Ohio and rural Appalachia tragic but riveting. Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir, and while it reflects at some length on the realities of life for working class whites, social policies, and the consequences of upward mobility, it's primarily a story of family and roots. This is a saga, full of violence and crippling vices and loss. But most compelling about this story, at least to me, is the unbridled resilience and seemingly limitless hope of the Vance family. His anecdotes about finding his footing in a new world, such as calling his girlfriend for advice on cutlery etiquette while at a formal Yale networking dinner, are charming and tangible. And while he lost me a bit in his discourse on the intricacies of navigating law school and its exclusive culture, the journey itself is raw and powerful. Hillbilly Elegy is an affecting reflection on social class, the American Dream, and working class culture. ( )
  GennaC | May 9, 2017 |
An inspiring story of how a boy raised in the violence and fierce clannishness of his Kentucky family went to Yale and became a lawyer and writer. The story illuminates a subculture within the U.S. and the historical migration of the rural Appalachian poor to the industrial cities of the midwest with the culture clashes that ensued. ( )
  NMBookClub | May 3, 2017 |
(22) I read this very quickly. I usually hate memoirs but after this book came up while visiting some college friends in NYC - for sure 'the liberal elite,' I rushed to read it. This young man crystallizes a lot of what being poor is all about - it isn't 'the system' or the 'the government's' fault. It is not just economic poverty but emotional poverty. It is the social decay that has crept into the working and the non-working poor. That can't be a popular position for him to have taken. However, I think he pulls it off fairly well.

I appreciate the candor with which he talked about even the most beloved members of his family, his Mamaw and Papaw. I appreciated that he did not forgive alcoholism and drug-abuse, child neglect and abuse, and violent tempers (although he sometimes veered into being an apologist for this.) I wish he would have explored the cultural implications of the white-working class' issues with racism, and xenophobia, and religious zealotry. Although calling himself a hillbilly, a Christian, a conservative is fine - I feel there was a lingering dichotomy the way he represented that identity and how he turns out. He does conveniently leave out his own personal beliefs on issues that have come to define the cultural divide, right? guns, gays, God and of course . . . reproductive rights. Oh well, that is not really what the book was about. But it begs the question. . .

I think this was a brave book. Engaging, fascinating, resonating. Raises complex issues and painful truths. I haven't read any reviews at all - but I bet they are polarized. ( )
  jhowell | Apr 29, 2017 |
Very readable memoir of a man who is embarking on a second chapter of life far different from his "hillbilly" upbringing. The arc of his life and the family, extended and nuclear, who contributed so much to the person he has become are fascinating. There are no easy solutions for the issues he raises, but what impressed me most the potential conversations that could spring from this book's pages. I found myself thinking that this is a guy who I'd really like to sit down to a beer summit with. Recommended for anyone who appreciates and wants to unlock the potential in people for whom the decks are stacked against. ( )
  angiestahl | Apr 21, 2017 |
The author relates his growing up in Appalachia along with the obstacles to that culture. He is able to also identify some of what helps those get out but admits some just repeat bad choices they have seen. Excellent! ( )
  LivelyLady | Apr 21, 2017 |
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The writer is called Mitchell. Booking holidays is how he makes a living. Tennessee is where we've been living for years. Doing origami is the thing I love most.

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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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Epigraph
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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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