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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

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 182 (next | show all)
Certainly an interesting story, but I think much less generalizable than many people, probably including Vance himself, think it is. Some very sad moments, some extremely funny moments, and well worth a read as a memoir, but we should all be careful not to make more out of it than it can bear. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 6, 2018 |
"I am one lucky son of a bitch" Vance writes. That's a fairly accurate summary of his thesis: He narrowly escaped poverty to access power and fulfill his American Dream--and he did so, in his opinion, despite the fact that his mother is a bitch. If you don't have time for all of his surface level introspection, that's all you need to know.

At one point, Vance writes, "I view members of the elite with an almost primal scorn--recently, an acquaintance used the word 'confabulate' in a sentence, and I just wanted to scream," yet this Yale Law grad (very prestigious, very hard to get into Vance reminds readers almost every chapter) takes us on some fairly sketchy memories and extrapolates that what this country needs is a more church based culture rather than any public policy fix.

I doubt Vance is dumb enough to actually believe that his memories of his childhood alone can substantiate his position. Instead, I believe this is a dig at poor people everywhere in America who do not have his ideal society or as he states: "Mormon Utah--with its strong church, integrated communities and intact families." Wow! What a longwinded way to further a conservative, libertarian message that's old as dirt--it's the fault of the culture: If countryside rednecks (or urban minorities) would just go to church, marry and stay in a family unit, we wouldn't need government aid programs. What trite bullsh*t.

I don't know his mother's side of the story, so I can't say that Vance is a "son of a bitch" as he call himself, but you might conclude as I have that Vance himself is a spiteful and unpleasant person.

On the plus side, this will get a bookclub talking--just try to borrow the book--we don't need to encourage Vance to try writing again. ( )
  ProfH | Sep 6, 2018 |
Reading the first half of this book is like watching Cops; reading the second half is like being stuck at a dinner where your cousin's pompous boyfriend holds forth about his life. What's worse, the great insights at which he arrives are shallow and obvious, yet he acts as if they are mindbending. Did you know, for example, that when kids are raised by a single mom with a succession of loser father figures, or that when they see their parents scream at each other in between scrounging for drug money, that this can adversely affect their development? The reader is also supposed to be impressed when Vance doesn't leap out of his car to kick another driver's ass in a fit of road rage. I have grown! This is actually a big scene in the book. Please. There are also many moments in which someone says The Truest Thing I Have Ever Heard or gives The Best Advice of My Life. This book makes Forest Gump seem like the Baghavad Gita or All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten seem like The Republic. Don't be fooled by any reviews that talk about the book's political ideas; there are none. It should seem equally empty to Trump or Hillary voters, to conservatives or liberals, to right wingers and lefties.

Vance seems to have written this out of guilt for having achieved escape velocity from a terrible world; he also endlessly blows smoke up his own arse about how he went from Ohio State to Yale and found the perfect life. Where's the guilt in that? At times, he extols nebulously-described hillbilly virtues, like "sticking up for your women" or "being the toughest people on earth," yet these same people curse at their kids, routinely get arrested, and are all-around awful. There's no hidden core of wisdom here, and for someone who loves to go on about his "hillbilly roots" as if he never forgot them, he sure toots his own horn. (How many times can we hear about his "beautiful girlfriend" or that Yale is one of the top law schools in the country?)

As Mattie Ross says in True Grit, "There is trash for you." A wholly horrible book that I finished only so that I could write a one-star review with impunity. ( )
1 vote Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
I am trying to only give 5 stars only to absolutely amazing books, and on that scale, this is a wonderful 4 star memoir that I loved reading! A glimpse into the poverty and dysfunction of that mysterious rust belt that we hear about so much. Thank you JD Vance for sharing your family with us, as difficult as it must have been to write about your childhood. As middle class as my upbringing was, I see bits and pieces of your life that I can totally claim as part of my own.

( )
  ioplibrarian | Aug 26, 2018 |
This was an interesting glimpse into what it means to be a hillbilly (including family loyalty and their sense of justice) and one family's migration from an Appalachian town in Kentucky to a suburban neighborhood in Ohio—and they're ability/inability to adapt to their new life and neighbors. It made me think about some of the poorer students I see in my school library and the struggles that impact their socialization and academic skills. I'm always interested in learning more about the lives and struggles people face because it helps me to be a more understanding, less judgmental person. (And couldn't we all benefit from a little more empathy?) From the title, though, I was hoping for more insight about isolated hillbillies and how they cope, the ones who stay behind in the mountains. ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Aug 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 182 (next | show all)
added by janw | editNew Yorker, Josh Rothman (Sep 12, 2016)

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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)

Shares the story of the author's family and upbringing, describing how they moved from poverty to an upwardly mobile clan that included the author, a Yale Law School graduate, while navigating the demands of middle class life and the collective demons of the past.… (more)

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