BKMT READING GUIDES

No.
5


 
Insightful,
Informative,
Interesting

24 reviews

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J. D. Vance

Published: 2016-06-28
Hardcover : 272 pages
59 members reading this now
138 clubs reading this now
12 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 21 of 24 members

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF "6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP'S WIN" AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street ...

Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
List Price:
$27.99
Amazon's Price:
$16.79
You Save:
$11.20 (40%)
Jump to

Introduction

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF "6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP'S WIN" AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

1. In what way is the Appalachian culture described in HillBilly Elegy a "culture in trouble"? Do you agree with the author's description of the book's premise:

The book is about what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.

2. Follow-up to Question 1: Vance suggests that unemployment and addiction are self-inflicted and that the Appalachian culture is one of "learned helplessness"—individuals feel they can do nothing to improve their circumstances. Do you agree with Vance's assessment? What could individuals do to improve their circumstances? Or are the problems so overwhelming they can't be surrmounted?

3. What are the positive values of the culture Vance talks about in Hillbilly Elegy?

4. The author's mother is arguably the book's most powerful figure. Describe her and her struggle with addiction. How did the violence between her own parents, Mawaw and Papaw, affect her own adulthood?

5. To What—or to whom—does Vance attribute this escape from the cycle of addiction and poverty?

6. Talk about Vance's own resentment toward his neighbors who were on welfare but owned cellphones.

7. Follow-up to Question 6: Vance writes

Political scientists have spent millions of words trying to explain how Appalachia and the South went from staunchly Democratic to staunchly Republican in less than a generation.... I could never understand why our lives felt like a struggle while those living off of government largess enjoyed trinkets that I only dreamed about.

Does his book address those two separate but related issues satisfactorily?

7. Critics of Hillbilly Elegy accuse Vance of "blaming the victim" rather than providing a sound analysis of the structural issues left unaddressed by government. What do you think?

8. What does this book bring to the national conversation about poverty—its roots and its persistence? Does Vance raise the tone of discourse or lower it?

From Litlovers

Suggested by Members

Do you regularly socialize with people from other socio-economic classes?
Do you buy JD Vance's conclusion?
by christineflee (see profile) 04/11/17

Are there any contradictions between the conclusions that the author offers and the solutions he found for achieving beyond his community/
by BJean (see profile) 03/07/17

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Hillbilly Heaven
by phesselbart (see profile) 05/17/17
Our hostess went all out with the hillbilly theme! We had a good time with her Moonshine Sangria, spray cheese and Twinkie Cake!
A cautionary tale
by curlytop (see profile) 04/20/17
Others have used this book to try to explain the current mindset of white middle class voters and the election of Trump. Tread carefully if you want to avoid bringing politics into your book club discussions. We successfully sidestepped that issue (no small feat since I live in a red state) and still had a very robust discussion.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Disturbing, But Important Book"by phesselbart (see profile) 05/17/17

Our group was unanimous in our regard for the way the author shined a light on the hillbilly culture. We were interested in how he told his unvarnished story and is clearly still working through the echoes... (read more)

 
  "This is a good book for discussion"by debi123c (see profile) 05/08/17

The book is poorly written but raises some interesting points that are good for a lively discussion.

 
by ShawnG (see profile) 05/03/17

 
by Hindsnorth (see profile) 05/01/17

 
by ezimmerman (see profile) 04/28/17

 
by lynette.bianchi@icloud.com (see profile) 04/21/17

 
  "Interesting story"by curlytop (see profile) 04/20/17

Having grown up in the rust belt myself, I identified with the plight of the characters in the story. I found the beginning and middle of the book somewhat repetitive. However, I believe the author's purpose... (read more)

 
by Sharon Adams (see profile) 04/13/17

 
by Evster (see profile) 04/12/17

 
  "Insightful take on the REAL prejudice of modern America"by christineflee (see profile) 04/11/17

This book evokes a good deal of emotion for anyone who grew up in a lower socio-economic class than they currently live in. This also turns out to be the main argument of the book...that Am... (read more)

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...