Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J. D. Vance
Hardcover- $16.79

#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 ...

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  "Rambling with little take away " by Katemachell (see profile) 09/16/16

The first half of the book is rambling, jumps around in time and makes it difficult to follow his childhood story. He gets bragy about all his achievements. He didn't give me any insight into "his" people.

 
  "" by Tishg (see profile) 10/19/16

 
  "Seemed a little thin, but presented a picture of the problems facing people who feel forgotten!" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 12/18/16

Hillbilly Elegy, J. D.Vance, author and narrator
J. D. Vance comes from a long line of hillbillies. His family started out in hillbilly country in Kentucky, but then he and his mom moved to hillbilly country in Middletown, Ohio. Although he lived in Middletown, he always harkened back to his grandparent’s home in Jackson, Kentucky, in the Holler, which he considered home.
His family was dysfunctional by most standards, but his grandparents instilled within him, a desire to achieve. Fortunately, he spent a good deal of time with them, in Kentucky, but the most important time was during his high school years, when he lived with his mamaw. She had great expectations for him. Even though her own methods were crude, her language foul, and she was sometimes violent and had little regard for rules, regulations or laws, she managed to propel him toward a brighter future than she had and to motivate him with her real affection and respect for him.
Violence was an accepted part of hillbilly culture, especially when it came to defending the insults to a member of the family. Their acts of retribution were never discussed or addressed by the law; they went unpunished. It was simply the hillbilly way of life. The culture was one of drugs and alcohol abuse; it was perpetuated by a continuing lack of morality, ethics, education, outside support, and, most important, a lack of responsibility for one’s one actions. The hopeful future of many of the young girls was often cut short by unplanned, early pregnancies, sometimes resulting in an early marriage, sometimes not. Suddenly, their dreams of a future were ended by motherhood when they were least able to handle it. Boys were not expected to get too much of an education. That was viewed as a feminist pursuit. Those that succeed were often alternately openly mocked and/or cheered.
For a good deal of his life, Vance was shuffled from place to place, sometimes with his mother and one of her five husbands, sometimes with his sister. Often, he could not tolerate the places he was forced to live in or the people with whom he lived. His mom’s way of life exposed him to chaos. His sister and his grandparents were the ones who centered him, and his sister was one of the rare hillbillies who was able to escape the clutches of her culture and its history. She was upwardly mobile as he was, eventually. When he married, he made a good choice. She has continued to stand by him, through thick and thin, enabling him to mature and succeed, control his anger and maintain hope for his future and the future of other hillbillies. J. D. Vance succeeded against all odds. Although his role models were flawed, they were positive role models. They taught him independence and gave him the confidence to try and better himself. He was able to recognize right from wrong and own up to his own behavior that was holding him back. He wanted out of that hillbilly culture of failure, but he also loved the hillbillies. They loved and supported each other, showing up to lend strength in times of need and to show respect for each other’s accomplishments.
When he joined the Marines, he matured even more and gained the courage and confidence to get out of the mold of the hillbilly. He began to understand why they were the way they were and what was needed to bring about a positive change for them so their lives wouldn’t always spiral downward. He described the hillbilly mentality as one that blamed others for their bad luck rather than recognizing their own part in what happened to them. He implied that it came from a sense of hopelessness and an inability to break out of the culture that shaped them. They were not exposed to any other way of life. Their language was crude, their honor had to be defended and their views of those that succeeded was often offensive. Yet they were also often proud of those that broke away and succeeded, although they couldn’t understand why they would want to leave their roots. Appalachia was a forgotten place. The people themselves felt forgotten. The hillbillies there had their own way of life in which they enforced their own rules and maintained their own sense of community.
Vance understood that the needs of that community were not being met. When he left and entered a prestigious university, he felt out of place; he had no real way of identifying with the way of life of most of the students. They came from a different class and background. When he went for job interviews, he was unsure of himself, didn’t know the proper etiquette. At dinner parties, he did not understand the wasteful abundance. He lived in one of Charles Murray’s bubbles, while his friends and roommates lived in another. It was not a function of race, religion, poverty or wealth. It was a function of exposure. He had no exposure to different ways of life or to different social circumstances. His education was lacking.
The book has been used, by some who read it, to explain the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. I see it as a reflection of the issues that the electorate wanted to be addressed. Many, like the hillbillies, felt unrepresented by the current President Barack Obama, and the other candidate was simply too flawed and began to appear too dishonest as certain facts were revealed. They were less concerned with the methods of revelation than the knowledge of wrongdoing that was being uncovered. She was too much a part of the political system that they no longer trusted, the system that had failed them with unfulfilled promises. They wanted to believe that something better could be achieved for them, and she was not offering them that hope. They voted for the candidate they believed would give them hope for a better, brighter future for everyone, not just specific minorities or the elite.
The book was read by the author, and I believe a professional reader might have made it sound a bit more interesting.

 
  "" by alarcara (see profile) 01/04/17

 
  "Hillbilly Elegy" by peckh2@verizon.net (see profile) 01/12/17

A very passionate, heartfelt, inspiring portrayal of the Hillbilly Scots-Irish subculture. It is not only about the Hillbilly culture, but anyone living in poverty and the lifelong impact it has on individuals and families.

 
  "" by whimsybook (see profile) 01/12/17

 
  "" by emmaball (see profile) 01/19/17

 
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  "" by kdhollrah (see profile) 02/08/17

 
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  "" by sluce (see profile) 03/01/17

 
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  "" by PiperUp (see profile) 03/07/17

 
  "Hillbilly Elegy" by BJean (see profile) 03/07/17

This is a highly personal view of the "hillbilly" culture as described by someone who has achieved spectacularly beyond his culture's expectations. It is a viewpoint that is rarely found in literature and is moving for those who can empathize with the disruption and pain that a child growing up in that culture may experience.

 
  "" by Shermanpal@aol.com (see profile) 03/15/17

 
  "It's not a hillbilly crisis" by cdcred (see profile) 03/21/17

I thought the story was sad but well written. However I struggled thinking how does a 30 year old write a memoir? There is so much he hasn't seen and his writing showed that. This isn't a hillbilly crisis, it's happening in so many cultures across the US. He would describe something seen in rural Alabama or Pennsylvania steel and coal towns. I'd love to hear his perspective again, perhaps with a little less profanity, when his own kids are 20.

 
  "" by kathyakelly06@gmail.com (see profile) 03/21/17

 
  "" by ladydiofnewcastle (see profile) 04/08/17

 
  "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 Americans are divided on class lines first and then other racial/ethnic differences. The characters were vivid and I laughed out loud at some of their nuances,even while recognizing similar people from own childhood.
One complaint, I don't like the conclusion...spoiler alert...it seems the author suggests that self determination is the anecdote to the malady of poverty, while acknowledging that he would have been lost to the system if not for some key players in his own life. Paradoxical I think. Still, I think it will make for a great discussion!

 
  "" by Evster (see profile) 04/12/17

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

 
  "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 was to shine a light on this unique population, not to write a great piece of literature. I have and will continue to recommend it to others.

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

 
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  "" by ShawnG (see profile) 05/03/17

 
  "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.

 
  "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 of his upbringing.

 
  "" by njmspeech (see profile) 05/25/17

 
  "" by Ljwagoner (see profile) 05/29/17

Very convinced that books can be a gateway to understanding. When I understand how another person lives & what impacts that life, I learn so much & am more open to a life & culture different from mind. This book has done just that for me. Experienced this as an audiobook. I feel the author reading his own words increased the impact of these words.

 
  "" by Peyton001 (see profile) 06/06/17

 
  "Could relate" by smith2k (see profile) 06/14/17

It was great to hear about a success story and about someone who knows first hand that there is no such thing as a free lunch. AND that the mentality that there is such a thing is bringing this country down.

 
  "" by jmlystad@hotmail.com (see profile) 06/20/17

 
  "Hard But Worthwhile Read" by bmedvid (see profile) 06/25/17

I was very interested to read Hillbilly Elegy as my father and many of his ancestors were born and raised in SW Virginia in the Appalachian mountains. I have not spent much time down there but am very interested in cultural history and ancestry. As such, I thought this would be an interesting read.

After reading it, I believe Hillbilly Elegy will not be an easy read for anyone from a marginally functional family. There are many moments/scenes in this memoir that a reader will find shocking, appalling, criminal, and leave you with a WTF sense of disbelief and anger. IMHO, those are the readers that really need to read this book. Working through those moments in order to gain a better understanding of what is behind them is exactly what I think the author intended. I think Vance hopes to foster a stronger understanding and conversation between culturally different (vastly different) groups of people.

While many of the moments in this book are horrifying, the author writes about it as "par for the course" and normal from his point of view and people. He acknowledges that it is different and in many cases needs to change but he also finds good, love, and pride in many of the moments of his youth. It is all part of who he is, where he is from, and part of what created the man he is today. Vance is very open and honest about this in his book. It is this attitude of acceptance, understanding, forgiving, and yes accountability that made this book so appealing to me. Without hearing voices like Vance's and understanding his perspective, real and useful progress/change is not possible.

I believe this book is a great read in helping people start to gain an understanding and at least have a conversation about a life-story, culture, and belief system that is foreign to many. His experience focuses on the working-class/lower income and poor white families of the Appalachian area, particularly in parts of Kentucky and Ohio. In today's society, I believe there is a rather divisive sense of us versus them mentality amongst many groups of people (race, class, religion, etc.). I think that can only start to be overcome with listening, trying to understand another person's reality, being non-judgemental about it, and having conversations. I believe Vance's book is a wonderful place to start this much-needed process with regards to the poor and working-class/lower income whites of this area.

 
  "Sociological Study of the white lower class" by Kerrinhp (see profile) 07/01/17

Interesting story about a poor young man from a dysfunctional family in Appalachia who was able to "take the train out of crazy town" and graduate from Yale Law School.

 
  "" by ladydiphil (see profile) 07/06/17

 
  "" by Duttons (see profile) 07/20/17

 
  "A Different World" by witchy1 (see profile) 07/21/17

A glimpse into the lives of those who live up in the hills in Appalachia.

 
  "" by abbtab2000@yahoo.com (see profile) 07/23/17

I was transfixed. It was so touching but it was also productive!

 
  "Nothing new" by lpollinger (see profile) 07/24/17

As a thirty something Mr. Vance is writing his memoir based on his life as a hillbilly. While he is to be commended that he was able to join the Marines, go to college,graduate from Harvard Law and marry a wonderful woman, I don't feel this book tells us anything we don't already know and for which we have no solutions. The problems he describes are not limited to hillibillies, but any group that is in the same socio economic situation.

 
  "Hillbilly Elegy" by Henniferb (see profile) 08/15/17

The narrative is not very well written. I'm not really sure what point is & author is very judgemental and closed minded based on limited experience.

 
  "" by hj.sullivan99@gmail.com (see profile) 08/17/17

 
  "hillbilly elegy" by nrietz (see profile) 08/19/17

It was interesting, but the author states that his people self inflict their unmotivated, poor, drug infested lives. Then he credits his grandmother as his life line to motivating him to be his best and enabling him to succeed. That two statements conflict.

 
  "" by mgrieco (see profile) 08/19/17

The author couldn't decide whether this was a memoir or social commentary. If he had stuck to his own experience, it would have been more compelling. But he quoted studies and statistics, but not in a thorough and convincing way. However, the book sparked a lively discussion at our meeting; we went well beyond our meeting end time. People loved it or hated it: high scores of 8, lows of 3, with not much in between.

 
  "Hillbilly Elegy" by jackyg12@bellsouth.net (see profile) 08/19/17

This narrative is written from the author's perspective relative to what he observed. It's not a life long memoir nor a total social commentary or psychological review, but rather just what he gleaned from those around him. It's one person's opinion and I thought it was interesting.

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