- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Harper (June 28 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780062300546
- ISBN-13: 978-0062300546
- ASIN: 0062300547
- Product Dimensions: 3 x 16 x 23.1 cm
- Shipping Weight: 399 g
- Customer Reviews: 11,651 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #56,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis Hardcover – June 28 2016
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From the Inside Flap
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a probing look at the struggles of America's white working class through the author's own story of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis--that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.
The Vance family story began with hope 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.--Jennifer Senior, New York Times
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Top reviews from Canada
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I'm from small-town Northern Ontario Canada and saw a lot of similarities between our area and the authors. People working in mines, sawmills, paper mills and more losing their livelihoods when industries change, mines dry, etc.
A lot of the mentalities are the same. Of course, we can't carry guns, but piss off a Bubba and fists will most likely fly. Hillbilly justice exists here too. You shoot off your mouth and catch a beating, then you got what you deserve. The law sees it the same way too.
Case in point: I was going to school in Toronto (still live there) and a friend of mine came to visit. An elderly woman (essentially the town grandmother) was crossing the street. I stopped to let her go. My friend threw a fit. I got out of the car and apologized for my friend's rude behavior. I explained, in French, that she was from Toronto and they aren't used to treating people with respect. Later on that night, we went out for drinks. We were approached by a few people who had choice words for my friend. She was about to go off at the mouth (she's 5'9" and 260 lbs). I stopped her and pulled the two guys aside. I knew who they were and the reputation they had. I talked to them and one guy started to walk back towards her. I asked his friend to call him back. I bought three rounds of shots and told them that we'd leave and she'd cut her visit short. They said nothing would happen as long as she left by Sunday. It was Friday night. We still had a few girls come up and want to start something. My friend is tough but these girls fight to win. Shovels. baseball bats. Hell, they'll grab a chainsaw out the garage and chase you down the street. None of my friends have been brave enough to visit.
I could go on about the drugs, the drinking and third or fourth generation welfare cases. Heck, a woman won 250 000 and was worried she'd lose her welfare. She blew through it in four months and was back on assistance. She could have bought a nice house for 120 000 and rented the basement.
All in all impressed with the book. Didn't care for the odd moment when he became too political (I don't like politics in general, not who he was supporting) but it didn't last too long.
If you want insight in the Moutain Man way of life then this is it.
A pleasant surprise. For quite a while I let this book collect dust on my bookshelf. This memoir came highly recommended, and I purchased this copy for a friend, who turns out already had a copy, so I kept it because I didn’t want the hassle of returning it. Glad I did. Do yourself a favour, pick this one up.
This is a good read about a somewhat unusual subject.
Top reviews from other countries
The book wasn't quite what I expected and I was delighted. I expected a more formal study but I got a very personal account of being raised in white, working class America and making it good.
As the start of the book I was full of questions and many of them were answered as JD's story progressed.
Most of the book is very personal but I found the most fascinating parts when he discusses the view, within America, of the white working class and the disadvantages that they deal with. There is a lot of pondering in the narrative that could be reduced at times but, to my delight, little use of academic theories.
This book will be very interesting for many people to read.
Both the reviews I have read and praise found on the cover of the book itself tell potential readers that this book is key to unlocking the mystery of Trump's election and the Brexit result, but the text offered no clues of the sort. Certainly, it is an interesting insight into what it's like growing up in white, working-class poverty. It goes a fair way to explaining the 'what' of the situation, but not the 'why' or 'how.'
The overarching message is that people who lack familial stability, or role models who are 'like them' but 'better' (for example Barack Obama is quintessentially not one of these people) will continue the cycle of poverty, and there are few things that government and policy can do to change it. Change must come from within, but how?
Few answers can be found in the book, unfortunately.
His realisation that the norms of life passed him by when he attends a posh dinner and hasn't a clue about table manners or etiquette is almost funny if it weren't so poignant. Cutlery and the fancy food and his first encounter with sparkling water is nearly his downfall but he gets through it.
The four years he spends in the marines makes a man of him and taught him life coping skills like managing finances and living independently in college.
All in all I enjoyed the book although my book club friends thought it was a bit unbelievable that he was so ignorant of the world outside his neck of the woods. I wasn't as I have seen people living in other cultures who would find our Western cultural norms alien.
I sense JD Vance's politics would be very conservative Republican and despite that I found his honesty and desire to get on while not rejecting his past very laudable.