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

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

Geschrieben von J. D. Vance

Erzählt von J. D. Vance


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

Geschrieben von J. D. Vance

Erzählt von J. D. Vance

Bewertungen:
4.5/5 (1,613 Bewertungen)
Länge:
6 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jun 28, 2016
ISBN:
9780062477521
Format:
Hörbuch

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Anmerkung des Herausgebers

Illuminating examination…

Even as the Vance family manages to achieve some semblance of ‘The American Dream,’ J.D. Vance shows how deeply the scars of poverty—and the familial and societal ills that it engendered—have compromised the health and happiness of each generation. A must-read for those interested in the ramifications of American social, economic, and political policy.

Beschreibung

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.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jun 28, 2016
ISBN:
9780062477521
Format:
Hörbuch

Auch als verfügbar...

BuchSchnappschuss

Über den Autor

J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and the New York Times, and works as an investor at a leading venture capital firm. Vance lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his family. Author mail for J.D. Vance can be sent to the below: P.O. Box 1040 West Chester, OH 45071


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  • At the heart of every American, there's this persistent belief in the greatness of the "American Dream," but J.D. Vance shows the toll the struggle for upward mobility can have. Looking back at his time growing up in the Rust Belt shows just how many have been left behind.

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  • (4/5)
    I found this to be a very interesting read. Like many I thought it would offer insight into the mentality of a part of the country that voted for Trump. That is not what this book is about (although it does provide descriptions of circumstances that might explain the voting).

    What I found most interesting was hearing from an "insider" about a community, a people, who although they live in the same country as I do, have access to the same media, news content, books, music, movies etc, are really very different from the people I know. The Appalachian community he describes is as foreign to me as that of the community from another, rather poor country.

    This is a personal story, although the author references studies to bring context to his observations. He seems to feel equally as uncomfortable in his Ivy League surroundings as he did in his mother's home. He has ventured out of the community and now sees it from two differing perspectives. Looking back Vance sees the problems there were/are in his community, but does not presume to offer the solutions.

    Vance writes about Social Capitol, about how he was never taught that there were programs to help kids like him go to College, he never knew that Ivy League schools would offer him more financial aid than State schools, he didn't know how to present himself at an interview, use the proper cutlery, write a resume, choose a wine, balance a checkbook or shop around for a better loan rate. He finds the idea of pajamas hilarious. We forget that somewhere along the line someone has to teach us the social skills/norms one needs to feel confident while pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. He was finally taught/told while at Yale, that who you know is as important as what you know. These are life lessons that can be incorporated in a school curriculum, as can topics such as financial literacy etc.

    There are no solutions provided in this book, the one conclusion I was came away with is that having people in your life who can support, guide and enlighten you can make the difference between success or failure. Vance was very fortunate in that he had many such mentors and he was smart enough to listen to them.
  • (5/5)
    Having grown up in Appalachia, I understand this story on personal familiar. While I avoided many of the experiences personally, I do recall the attitude acutely.
  • (5/5)
    This work is an eye opening look at a section of America we often prefer to ignore. Powerful reading and honest experience! Kudos to Mr. Vance!
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book...it was thoughtful, supported with some research, and resonated with me and I'm sure many readers.
  • (4/5)
    Highly Recommend! More thoughtful review to come when I have a few moments.
  • (5/5)
    An honest and poignant story of growing up in Appalachia. The conclusion is what I've seen as a teacher: each child needs SOMEBODY to guide and direct them, if not a parent, a grandparent, a sister, etc. 272 pages
  • (3/5)
    This book has potential: Vance grew up in a challenging environment and, despite the odds, overcame significant strife through hard work and perseverance. Yet, it somehow missed the mark for me: Vance lacks the self-awareness to relate to his audience, too intent on defending his community to build a strong thesis around what he wishes to accomplish with his book. He lacks structure, trying to capture a moral he can't quite express. His story is one worth telling and reading. It's a shame it doesn't deliver on what it really set out to do: get the reader to better appreciate his people.
  • (3/5)
    I started the audio book on this morning's commute, and it's simultaneously the best and worst choice for this day.

    ETA: Meh. I don't get why all the fuss and bother about this book. It's not bad, but I don't feel like it was full of earth-shattering revelations or anything. I mean, I guess if you grew up in an upper-middle class white world, there might be some new perspective to be gained into the lives of the lower-middle and lower classes. But. for me, the people described in these pages were neighbors and family and situations I knew from childhood. If you've ever eaten bologna sandwiches with ketchup because you're out of Miracle Whip, you can probably skip this one.
  • (3/5)
    After reading this book, I have a better understanding of the term "working class white". I've been confused by the term in a political context as it seems that the "working" portion of the term need not apply. In Vance's book it implies a person who didn't complete college. But unstated is the element of a trade or craft. The book rather targets as "working class white" the people that might be better grouped by his term of "adverse childhood experience". Best summed up as "instability begets instability".
  • (4/5)
    Mr. Vance has created a memoir which treads the fine line between memory and analysis. It walks that touchy territory well and the result i both readable and insightful. The Scotch Irish ethos which was originally created on the English-Scottish border and translocated to North American is terribly important, both nationally, and world wide. It is a mindset that has formed institutions and gene pools. J.D. has the benefit of escaping that ethos, and the process of escape has illuminated both the ethos and the methods of freeing oneself from it. Freeing oneself, for to remain in it is to following the familiar arch of previous mindsets which in the long run first advance those gains in civilization that we have made, and then after giving its tributes to the life of the mind and the emotions, imprisons the spirit and actively combats the next step. This is a history of a family, and how one of its members came to be dissatisfied with the world he was born into and of the methods, and sadly the accidents that allowed him to create a fuller and freer life for himself and the next generation of his family. Working class america reached a crisis of expectations in the last half of the twentieth century when large numbers of factory jobs disappeared, and with it the answers to the traditional working class question. That question, since the Renaissance has been "how am I going to survive and raise the next generation if I do not have the inherited wealth and social / educational property to get money from the work of others?" Lacking the ownership of the right property what can an individual do to make enough money by labour to survive? J.D. has no big answer, fortunately he did have enough intellectual skills and potential to make an individual success. For the vast bulk of his contemporaries, and especially those of the "Hillbilly" mindset, (and White, Black and any other colour of humn is now in the "HillBilly" condition), the answer is to accept a life that falls far short of the possibilities humans used to enjoy. He has given us a possible pattern, and I hope he can reach enough people to substantially alter the future we face. Read it and re-act.
  • (4/5)
    Part memoir (even though the author is only in his early 30s) and part reflection on the nature of the underclass in America.
  • (5/5)
    SummaryJ.D. Vance should have ended up like all the others who grew up around him in poverty, with drug addictions, and jobless. He should have been "stuck"; however, with the fierceness of the people around him, he was able to move out and up. His story should end with graduating from Yale Law School, and he should be considered a successful story of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. The problem with that stereotype is that it doesn't take into consideration the consequences growing up within a failing culture that is America's white working class. The idea of "just getting out" isn't as simple as many want it to be. The crisis that Vance describes in Appalachia isn't one that can be shaken off and forgotten. Vance does an incredible job of showing that to readers. Upward mobility isn't just a social climb that can be affected by geography. There are much deeper issues within which to delve if we are to address the crisis of working class whites, including psychological, cultural, social, medical, and educational issues to name only a few. Yes, J.D. Vance is a success. Yes, he made it out. But, his story and many others like it were far from over as they crossed state lines. What I LikedThe historical details - Appalachian Regional Commission/ Lyndon JohnsonJackson, KY to Ohio via Route 23the migratory flow between Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigangrowing up in the "holler" catching "minners" and "crawdads"Kentucky coal countryMiddletuckyHatfields and McCoys in Appalachia compared to The SopranosRon Selby, the Advanced Math teacher - "I had that kid in class; he's not smart enough to make a functioning bomb."Mamaw - As harsh as Mamaw Blanton's language (conversation with J.D. about why he was not gay made me laugh out loud, snort and spit my coffee fashion ;) ) and life could be, she loved her grandchildren...and had a truly soft heart for anyone in need. She definitely lived the "take care of everybody" lifestyle and loved to "spend time with those babies."Mamaw made sure J.D. had anything he needed, any time, any place. What an unconditional love this woman had for her grandson.Papaw - Despite his "bullshits" and his grouchiness, he never met a hug or kiss that he didn't welcome. (108)Papaw also loved J.D. In fact, he was J.D.'s father since his own biological father nor any of his mother's potential candidates could or would step up. Papaw taught J.D. how to shoot so well that in the Marine Corp, J.D. qualified with an M16 rifle as an expert. He also played math games with J.D. after a young J.D. came home one day worried about his lack of math skills. When Papaw died, J.D. spoke at his funeral:I stood up in that funeral home resolved to tell everyone just how important he was. "I never had a dad," I explained. "But Papaw was always there for me, and he taught me the things that men needed to know." Discussion of Religion - Organized religion was not something J.D.'s family nor many of the other families he knew spent much time on. This fact calls into question yet another stereotype about working class southern "conservatives." Despite the stereotype, J.D.'s biological father and his new family were the only real religious families that J.D. ever knew. Mamaw reassured J.D. that God never leaves your side. She believed that without a doubt, but she also believed that God helps the man who helps himself. Mamaw believed it was fine to pray to God for help with your problems, but you best be ready to do the work on your part as well.Psychological focus - Once J.D. became successful and "escaped" the trap, he had to deal with the conundrum of still seeing in himself some of the very behaviors he had worked so hard to get away from. Especially where relationships were concerned, J.D. had to re-learn much of what had been unconsciously taught to him during his childhood. In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. presents rich research and sources to explain this phenomenon:"Significant stress in early childhood results in hyperresponsive or chronically activated physiologic stress response, along with increased potential for fear and anxiety.the part of the brain that deals with stress and conflict is always activated...the switch flipped indefinitely." (228)Educational focus - Even though J.D. received access to higher education via his service in the military, he needed more...and that doesn't mean just money. What so many see as common knowledge parts of the educational system are huge stumbling blocks to students who come in from the outside. The Ivory Tower isn't famous for welcoming outsiders and is well-known to throw gatekeeping devices in students' way. J.D. wasn't asking for special favors either. He honestly didn't realize what he even needed to ask for help with. Academics wasn't the problem. The largest roadblock was the system itself - institutional, political, and social...and much of it unconscious or accidental...the roadblocks of privilege.J.D. Vance's book made me pull back out some of my old textbooks on working class literacy...I haven't done that since I finished my last degree because I was exhausted with academia. For the first time in many years, my research brain is piqued, and I'm ready to re-visit some of those theories.What I Didn't LikeThere really wasn't anything about Vance's memoir that I didn't like as far as the book itself...there were more than a few things that made me very sad...so sad that I had to think about, analyze, and really process before writing my review. But, again, I think that's Vance's point.I wasn't crazy about J.D.'s mama...I don't "fault" her really, but I don't "forgive" her either. He was just a child, and he needed his mama. But, she wasn't there. She had a lot of extenuating circumstances, but that doesn't change the fact that she wasn't there.I was and am beyond glad that J.D. had other people around him to take care of him. J.D.'s mom did have a library card and made sure he had access to books. She herself became a nurse and cared deeply about "enterprises of the mind"...she was one of those moms who got carried away "revamping" a science fair project. Her own lack of education about how a man should treat a woman was unfortunately handed down to her own children tenfold and exacerbated by her quest to find a suitable father for J.D. and Lindsay..."adventures" which pulled them further and further away from being able to live within a stable family environment.And, then, there were the drugs. Drugs for which she was probably given a prescription but very quickly lost control of.Addiction is a huge issue...a crisis of epidemic proportions.Overall RecommendationAmericans tend to have pretty egocentric views about the world and even within our own borders. Vance's book Hillbilly Elegy reminded me a lot of Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle, two books I think everybody needs to experience.
  • (4/5)
    What a remarkable book, a combination of modern American sociological treatise and childhood memoir. It is a must read for poor and wealthy alike, and especially the latter. You need to walk a mile in someone's Marine Corps boots or pleather shoes with unmatched belt, to get a clear vision of what is wrong with American society (and what can be often fairly easily fixed) . But, Vance's book is certainly not literature. It reads like an admissions essay to any ol' American University, public or elite. I'll think of all the lessons learned, any time I see a Mountain Dew or Taco Bell.
  • (3/5)
    The cynical reader might wonder why a 31 year old would be inspired to write what is essentially an autobiography, especially if that 31 year old works for Peter Thiel (a fact that is only evident from the acknowledgments, and not from the text). Perhaps its to lay the foundation for a political career? Mr Vance certainly has the backstory to follow that path, should he wish to. As a rags to riches affirmation of the American Dream, the book is compelling enough. Mr Vance has a difficult childhood, with an absent real father, but constantly rotating father figures from the many marriages and liaisons of his mother, who has substance abuse and mental health issues. He is essentially raised by his no nonsense, tough as old boots grandmother and his older sister. He graduates high school, if only just, and makes a decision to join the Marines rather that go to college. Up to this point, the story is interesting. Vance is self deprecating (perhaps a little too much so at times) seemingly honest about his own failings and those of family members, and he has a decent sense of humour. Despite the books title, though, this is really about a family in crisis and there is really relatively little discussion of hillbilly culture. We learn that large shambolic families are the norm , protecting the honour of your family with violence is expected, and that bad decisions come from bad options (which is hardly unique to hillbillies). Mr Vance makes sweeping generalisations about "the white working class" and whilst some of his conclusions seem fair enough, it is unclear how he has arrived at them. For example, he is probably right that some people who blame the government or society for their misfortunes might be better advised to look at their own poor choices; but how and when did a culture of self reliance turn into a culture of blame? He is undoubtedly right that many people no longer trust mainstream media. But why don't they? Why do they think they are being lied to? He is disingenuous on the reasons for President Obama's unpopularity in the rustbelt. He blames it on the fact that Mr Obama looks cultured and well spoken, and wears a suit to work. Err yes. But so did President Bush wear a nice suit and the rustbelt had no issue voting for him. It seems that Mr Vance does not consider the possibility that race might have something to do with it, perhaps not in his own family (although the fact that one of his cousins is disowned by her family for giving birth to a black baby would seem to give lie to that) but certainly in generalMr Vance joins the Marines because he believes he is not ready for college - and here the story gets less interesting. The armed forces teach him self discipline (mainly through the medium of shouting at him it seems) and how to be an adult. He goes to Iraq, but not in a fighting role. Somehow, and this is not explained, he has morphed into being in the Marines PR department rather than being a grunt. He leaves the Marines, churns through Ohio State University at double speed despite holding down 2 or 3 jobs, goes to Yale and from there has it made. He has some amusing anecdotes to tell about hillbilly social faux pas in the cultured Ivy League world but that's about itSo what do we take out from this? Mr Vance's story, at least until he leaves Middletown, Ohio, is interesting enough and is worth reading. His comments on hillbilly, or white working class, culture are probably correct but not particularly illuminating. His solution? He doesn't really have any (which is fair enough, these are hardly simple problems) other than a return to self help, self reliance, a strong role for the church, and you suspect (although Mr Vance doesn't overtly say it) a return to national service. What these directionless young people need, you suspect he believes, is a good dose of being shouted at by a drill sergeant. Its a point of view anyway
  • (3/5)
    Loads of fun value, the stories about the author's gun wielding grandparents are amazing for anyone looking from the outside of that culture. Even the rest of the family and hometown related memories, if sad, are interesting. But the book goes downhill when the author tries to elaborate social theories out of his experiences and little more, and it gets even worse towards the end when he leaves for the Marine Corps and then university.Unsophisticated is probably the best word to describe those last chapters, the author making a story out of being offered to different kinds of wine at a restaurant and other similar stories.
  • (4/5)
    "Powerful people sometimes do things to help people like me without really understanding people like me." "...social mobility isn't just about money and economics, it's about a lifestyle change. The wealthy and the powerful aren't just wealthy and powerful; they follow a different set of norms and mores. When you go from working-class to professional-class, almost everything about your old life becomes unfashionable at best or unhealthy at worst. At no time was this more obvious than the first (and last) time I took a Yale friend to Cracker Barrel. In my youth, it was the height of fine dining -- my grandma's and my favorite restaurant. With Yale friends, it was a greasy public health crisis." I had not realized that this book, which has topped the reading lists of liberal intellectual circles for the past several months, was a memoir. I expected an academic treatise, a narrative nonfiction work of sociology. Instead, I got a very personal recounting of the life of a man born in southeast Kentucky and raised in Rust Belt Ohio by a poor and chaotic family. Vance is still in his early 30s so this is a memoir of youth. It is also an examination of the cultural dynamics of poor white "hillbillies," his own word for his extended family and their community. One reason for the book's popularity is liberal intellectual Americans' desire to "understand" the results of the most recent election and the increasing divide between classes within our society. Vance does provide a glimpse into a culture steeped in loyalty and mistrust, deep patriotism and vilification of government, resentment of the rich and a reluctance to consider one's own contribution to stagnation. Vance explores these paradoxes with his own loyalty on his sleeve and this is one reason for the success of the work. He invites compassion and understanding, appreciation for the good in his people even as they abuse drugs or scream obscenities at one another, and an openness to solutions that focus less on schools, for example, and more on the family unit so crucial to a child's sense of security in the world. It's not great literature, but it's a worthwhile read.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    At times a difficult book to read, not because of the language, nor even the writing skill of the author, but rather it is hard to accept that life that Vance experienced as a youth. I am reminded of my father's statement, when I asked him why it took so long for my parents to leave Appalachia. "We didn't know there was anything better," he replied. In many respects, the book is a testament to the human spirit, especially how one person was able to overcome the hardships of his childhood and succeed in life, while many around him were not successful. But it is also an indictment of the system with which we all live in today's U.S. I heartily recommend the book to anyone trying to understand what has gone wrong in our world today.
  • (4/5)
    This book has become a "thing" this election season, as the White working class seems to have been the difference in electing Donald Trump President. Vance is a self described "hillbilly" raised in Middletown Ohio but with family roots in Kentucky. His memoir of life with a drug addicted mother and maternal grandparents who make his life bearable in spite of a string of step-fathers and instability is heart breaking and moving, and inspiring too.In this political season, I found Vance's conservative voice, including his conclusion that the white working class needs to stop blaming Obama or Bush and take responsibility for solving the rot that has entered their culture, to be fair enough. He doesn't have a political solution to the rot, and it's a knotty problem.As a writer, Vance is just OK. The story is great, the prose good enough to tell the story but nothing that knocked my socks off.
  • (4/5)
    As a New Englander who married into an Appalachian family, I loved that the author went back in time to explain the history of this special American culture. I understand many of my in-law family stories better now. Vance's description of rising beyond the expectations of one's childhood brought tears to my eyes. "Upward mobility" has its cost and its emotional disorientation. In that sense, this is a universal story.
  • (4/5)
    The author serves up his childhood memories & experiences living with his hillbilly family in Kentucky & Ohio. Vance highlights a lifestyle threaded with themes of love, loyalty and honor; but also fraught with missed educational & professional opportunities that in turn creates a culture of fatalism and "learned helplessness." The sections where the author paints the settings & circumstances of his childhood resonate as true; but ultimately, as Vance closes his work, he addresses the issues of failing Rust Belt communities with a metaphorical shrug, "I don't know what the answer is, I only know what worked for me." People who might be interested in the topic of Rust Belt communities might be interested in following up this memoir with an article from Propublica, "Revenge of the Forgotten Class," by Alec MacGillis. The article brings into the focus the politics of Montgomery County, Ohio - which was very much founded on the backs of the Kentuckian migrants into the Valley. MacGillis doesn't suggest policy changes either; but he does provide the context by which we can understand why this sector of American culture matters.
  • (5/5)
    Absolutely illuminating and can shed some light on the current political situation. An honest insider perspective that relates three generations of a family's story without glossing over or dwelling on the hardships of an unstable family home, addiction, and poverty.
  • (4/5)
    This was a fascinating memoir of growing up a hillbilly and becoming a Yale Law School graduate. I guess to sum this book up, I would draw on the author's own statement that the white working class has lost optimism. This is Vance's story about the optimism nurtured within him by his beloved grandmother, Mamaw. Fascinating story accompanied by the author's and others' policy lessons regarding key issues needing to be addressed to bring about change. I think this book is timely and relevant to our recent election results. Gotta love Mamaw!
  • (4/5)
    Definitely a political and social must-read of 2017. Not to mention a very engaging, entertaining book. I ended up loving the author's grandmother as much as he did.
  • (5/5)
    Hillbilly Elegy is gut-wrenchingly raw, emotionally exhausting, and, paradoxically, uplifting. J. D. Vance takes the reader back to his roots in the eastern Kentucky hollers. His family is a litany of ruffians, rabble-rousers, and law-breakers. They lived by a code of hillbilly ethics that simply baffles outsiders. Vance draws on the reservoir of his dysfunctional past to give the reader a guided tour into the mindset that drives the socio-economic divide in America today. What I especially love about Hillbilly Elegy is that Vance doesn't assess blame or offer easy solutions. Neither, to his way of thinking, are helpful. "People sometimes ask whether I think there's anything we can do to 'solve' the problems of my community. I know what they're looking for: a magical public policy solution or an innovative government program. But these problems of family, faith, and culture aren't like a Rubik's Cube, and I don't think that solutions (as most understand the term) really exist" (238). Nor does he paint a hopeless picture. His own life demonstrates that the considerable obstacles that face people on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum can be overcome. Vance is a Yale Law graduate with a successful marriage and career. And he is unafraid to put the burden back on the shoulders of his own people. "I believe we hillbillies are the toughest . . . people on this earth. We take an electric saw to the hid of those who insult our mother [his uncle did this]. We make young me consume cotton undergarments to protect a sister's honor [another true family story]. But are we tough enough to do what needs to be done to help a kid like Brian [a hillbilly kid he met]? Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children? Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us" (255). This book is a must-read for those who want/need to understand the under-privileged around them. Whether you call them hillbillies, rednecks, cajuns, or something else, this book will help you understand them. Educators, coaches, politicians, and pastors should read Hillbilly Elegy. The language is salty. The stories are shocking. But there is a ring of truth to it that we need to hear if we are to engage this segment of society.
  • (5/5)
    This was an AMAZING book and very timely. It really explains a lot about Trump and how middle America feels about situations. Also the book was very well written. The story just seemed to flow. I wonder, however, if the story will have the same impact if it is read 5 years from now when the whole "how could Trump have won" phenomena has passed.
  • (3/5)
    This is the much heralded memoir of a Yale Law School graduate who came from Kentucky "hillbilly" stock but was mostly raised in rust-belt Ohio. His mother was a drug addict who ran through a succession of men; His "mamaw" was more nurturing but hotheaded and sometimes violent. Vance talks about finding his way to normalcy through the Marines, which gave him the discipline to overcome his undisciplined upbringing.I'm not sure why this is getting so much praise. The memoir part was interesting enough, but his attempt to generalize from his experience doesn't work; his conclusions are based on more cliche than on data. My book group agreed that if a woman had written this, it would be just another Oprah-worthy confessional, but since it's a man, it's automatically Universal and Important. Weirdly, the book has been discussed as if it has something important to say about the much coveted WWC, but it really doesn't offer anything that will be useful to any political party. In setting the blame for WWC troubles in their own lack of morality and discipline, it flies in the face of what the Berniecrats and Trumpians say.
  • (3/5)
    Good to read this....but it should have been less autobiographical and more sociological/political. I would recommend it though!