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If you want to know about a people or a place you must listen to those who are actually from there. https://soundcloud.com/user-972848621-463073718
I personally had many issues with this book. You may not, although J.D. Vance stepped all over my 4-year sociology degree and kicked it to the bucket. If you believe in welfare queens, or that those experiencing extreme poverty are doing so out of laziness, then this may be a more fitting book for you than it was for me. While I can still enjoy a book that goes against my political beliefs and education, I felt that "Hillbilly Elegy" was poorly written and extremely uninteresting.
Interesting, quick read. Book seems outdated now that Obama is no longer president. I'd like to see an afterward added to the book regarding Vance's take on the Trump presidency.
The book that all the pundits told us to read so we can "get" Appalachia and the white working class Trump voter. There is so much wrong with the book and Vance, who is now some kind of venture capitalist living on the West Coast (He's become what he hates!), is not a good writer. Peter Thiel is quoted on the back, which should tell you something. Rather than me, a left coast elite, continue ranting, read this interview:
It's interesting to see that, though Vance is from southwest Ohio, he's given many people here the impression that he's from Kentucky or West Virginia (Appalachia). But southwest Ohio is indeed a region populated by hillbillies. Perhaps more insight into the area may be had by reading "Knockemstiff," a book of short stories by Donald Ray Pollock, about an area that had a serious pill problem before it became fashionable to talk about opioids.
It's quite difficult to come up with something new to say about a book to which a great deal has already been written. In short, what sets the book apart is its empathy and its humility. The deeply moving account of growing up in poor Appalachia spares no detail in showing how truly awful 'hillbilly culture' is in destroying the inner lives of its people. At the same time, the author clearly understands the broader socio-economic forces and play, lamenting the death of small town America due to automation and globalization. The book has few in the way of answers, but it asks important questions that Americans need to grapple with.
Although the genre of autobiography can tend to be ennui-inducing chronological sequence, Vance's take on his semi-unusual upbringing is both refreshing and compelling in its suspense. Without being over political or demonizing factions of American society, Hillbilly Elegy explains the plights of the often forgotten low-income whites (specifically located in the Appalachian region) and why this particular group has such low expectations for both themselves and their families. Having broken the cycle of poverty himself, Vance looks back on the specific factors that allowed him to succeed unlike many still struggling his community, giving readers a greater understanding of both hillbilly isolationist culture and justice.
Read this because it's beautiful and humane. Few storytellers cultivate empathy the way Vance does in Hillbilly Elegy; he invites the reader in to share his experiences, but never asks for our sympathy.
Vance has constructed this heartwarming story to sort out his conflicted feelings, the culturally ingrained emotions that, by extension, he suspects his fellow Scots-Irish Appalachians share. Vance’s feelings pretty much begin and end with family loyalty shared by residents of “the holler” in Kentucky, but inferiority and defensiveness go with him to Ohio and stay with him through years in public school, the Marine Corps, Ohio State University, Yale Law School, and the writing of his book. What is the nature of such feelings? The hillbilly harbors a “deep skepticism of the very institutions of our society…becoming more and more mainstream. …Social psychologists have shown the group belief is a powerful motivator in performance. …if you think it’s hard to get ahead even when you try, then why try at all?” No amount of success can change that mindset, but J.D. and a few others in his family do counter-balance the negatives of hillbilly mindset with the positives of healthy family ties and a middle-class income. For Vance, a mentor or role model is the crucial factor. “Each [successful person] benefited from the same types of experience in one way or another. They had a family member they could count on. And they saw—from a family friend, an uncle, or a work mentor—what was available and what was possible.” His grandmother and his sister provided stability. His teachers and drill instructors guided him to new habits. He tells his story in sentences at an eighth-grade readability level that almost any reader could manage. Most of the subject matter is lightweight, even the occasional references to sources in academic literature. We get prurient incidents like the Kentucky businessman who takes an electric saw to the truck driver who insulted his sister. Vance teases us with the question: How did he do it? How did the hillbilly with no financial means graduate from Yale Law? Don’t take this story as a formula for upward mobility. We get no proportions of positives to negatives, no crucial combination needed to escape the mindset of the holler. As a result, it left me a little unsatisfied, taking away a few anecdotes but no break-through insights.
This book was recommended to me and something I might never have picked up. I see the ratings are all-over-the- place and I can understand why. It is more like a documentary within a story. It was very interesting for me to get a different point of very of these "Hillbillies" that I never really even thought about. This was this persons experiences that might be very different from another point of view (see below). While reading I visioned Detroit and other places where poverty has erased whole towns and helped me to make sense of these types of places. Also I could relate some of the experience of Irish communities with those features in this book.
So I can recommend the read if you want to learn something outside of your normal life experience.
Another reader recommended two books that he/she thought a better perspective of these folks: Ramp Hollow and What are you Getting Wrong about Appalachia.
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance’s personal memoir of growing up in Appalachia, includes reflections on the decline of his community and on his struggle to rise above it. As Vance traces his evolution from insecure boy leading a precarious existence to Yale graduate with a clearly defined political sensibility, it is this evolution, with its inherent contradictions, that make Hillbilly Elegy a compelling read, especially for political junkies, and especially in light of the Trump ascendancy. Though not Vance’s intention, Hillbilly Elegy is a study in how the oppressed are seduced by their oppressors. This irony is at the heart of the memoir’s deep-seated contradiction, whereby the hillbilly community is at once lambasted by Vance as being responsible for its decline and eulogized as the victim of economic, cultural and political conditions beyond its control.
Of course, life is complicated and full of contradictions, as are individuals, all evident in this memoir; and certainly, people, are, to a degree, accountable for their failures in life. However, even though Vance cares deeply about his hillbilly community, his criticisms are harsh and his laying of blame squarely on an Appalachian community under economic siege is startling in the least. In light of the fact that this memoir has become a kind of launching pad for J.D. Vance’s political career (which is admittedly on hold at the moment), one must scrutinize his foundational ideas and the experiences that led to them – experiences that illustrate in detail how the privileged ruling class is able to enlist the support of those, including Vance, whom they have persistently oppressed. It is no small wonder that Republicans love this book. It is a primer on how to convince the poor that poverty is their fault.
Note: Since Vance credits much of his success to networking (“social capital”) it should be noted that a significant person in his network, and acknowledged at length in his memoir, is Amy Chua. Chua has been the subject of a controversy involving Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Google it.
As a bewildered immigrant from Asia, I read this book trying to understand what “hillbilly" or "white trash" are all about, why billionaire Trump is embraced by some poor white Americans. I grab the book from library before a trip to California and completed the reading thru the six-hour long flight back home. It is easy to read, mesmerizing, and full of emotional impact. Strongly recommend it.
Although not yet having the full answer to my questions, after reading Hillbilly Elegy, through author’s vivid description about his chaotic childhood and ways to escape the impact of these trauma, I do have better understanding about the struggles and cultural backgrounds to entrap the “hillbilly" or “white trash” people from escaping the economic difficulties, and their cynicism and mistrust against social elites, mainstream media…etc.
The author fought against all odds of his childhood trauma and ended up a Yale Law School graduate. At the end of the book, he concludes that those problems present in his home towns may not be solved by government or policies, but more by the church or any other ways to open up the cultural enclosement and to encourage the community engagement & broad family support. A great reading!
I read Hillbilly Elegy for a few reasons. One, I had heard some of my friends talking about the book and it sounded interesting. Two, I usually enjoy reading memoirs, autobios, and bios. And three, I have often somewhat prided myself in that I am of Appalachian blood-my family is from West Virginia, a beautiful, mountainous area, and yes, I have many found memories of my great grandparents. I was aware of them being called hillbillies when I was very young, even though I was raised in central Ohio.
While reading Mr. Vance's descriptions of his family, I do not recall quite as colorful a language coming from my family (of course, maybe they toned it down a bit in my presence), but the family loyalty he described, yes, that was definitely present in my maternal grandparents and great grandparents.
I found quite a lot that I enjoyed about Hillbilly Elegy. I would recommend the book to others, although I would warn them, the language is on the rough side, especially for young adult readers.
I think Mr. Vance has done well for himself. He worked hard and is learning how to live a healthier inner life and a healthier family life. I hope he writes more in the future.
I'm not a connoisseur of memoirs so I don't know how they normally read but this was so difficult to get through, it felt like someone trying to introduce themselves for a political race. It was the typical "I came from a broken home but pulled myself up by my bootstraps" story sans nuance, struggle, or honesty. Sure his early life was difficult in some ways but it didn't feel like he really overcame much other than the loss of his family members.
I don't understand why this book was written, y'all.
This book is not Appalachia! It is the story of one family. There is so much more to be said about the thriving culture, history and perseverance of Appalachian communities. If you are looking for a book that explains the last election check out The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America... it is from 2013, but does a great job of depicting the struggles of poor and rural people over the past several decades
I wanted to attempt to understand what led to the results in the American election and I'd heard that this book would fit the bill. It had some interesting insights, however, it was not what I expected. Instead, it focused more on the author's own personal experiences and his life. A great read about the importance of family ties, whatever your circumstances.
This book is a must read for new readers wanting to be informed regarding the Appalachia region and socioeconomic turmoil. It is very easy to see through the author yes, he is a conservative and some people have commented to say the author is in someway justifying the
"Alt right" or neo-nazi/white supremacy. To think that, I say this is incorrect. If you read this book with an open mind and realize that not everything he says applies to all but is just a small example of the trials and troubles of people of this region and minority regions. To be honest, I find the author a bit pretentious, hypocritical but his story is still intriguing. It definitely has a survival bias theme to it; however to people that are not exposed to these problems or are far removed from it it is a must read because it's a start to understanding each other in an objective manner and not in an identity politics dog vs. dog world that we appear to living in. Overall read this and try to expand your knowledge I will look into the other books that were mentioned in the comments below mine.
This author associates with and supports the cause of white supremacists, which is to exterminate people who are not white. As if that isn't bad enough, this work blames the very victims of poverty rather than the causes of it. As someone who has personally experienced a childhood of poverty in Appalachia, I know there are far better books to read like Ramp Hollow and What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia.
Originally from the Chicago suburbs, I attended college in southern Indiana. I was assigned to a suite of 4 girls, one of whom was from rural Kentucky, one from Dayton, OH, and one from the author's hometown, Middletown, OH. All three came from backgrounds with many similarities to the author's. They and their large, rowdy, families and those of the people I met who lived in the small towns near the university introduced me to the Hillbilly culture.
As the author relates, this was a culture with both great strengths and great weaknesses, and also one whom time is increasingly leaving behind as their traditional jobs disappear and leave those individuals remaining behind with a mix of government charity and semi- to fully illegal moneymaking options.
Vance points out that the divide between these people and those who are successful in the modern world continues to grow and that the gap separating them is becoming harder and harder to bridge.
While not a political book, per se, Vance does provide insight into the reason behind the political shift of working class southern whites from Democrat to Republican. It has not been so much an embracing of the conservative ideals as it has been a disgust with how the Democrats and big governments have failed them since the time of the New Deal when they perceived the Roosevelt administration as the ally of the working man.
This is an Interesting look at a group of people who are seldom analyzed in terms of anything beyond the country hick stereotype. Vance points out that well-meaning government programs meant to help them often miss the mark and even worsen the issues.
I found this story boring. I am sorry he had such a difficult childhood but this is not especially well written, nor does it provide social analysis, other than the obvious need for meaningful work and decent education systems in the state. It is sad that there are such communities of adults who cannot control their anger or take responsibility for their children and for their environment. Only the intellectually gifted escape... sometimes.
Intrigued because I knew of several people reading this, I did so myself. It's not bad. It's generally well edited and moves briskly, particularly the first half. I noticed that I lost sympathy with the author as he moved beyond junior high school. Once in the U.S. Marine Corps and then onto Ohio State and from there Yale Law he becomes like every other cocky salesman you have had the misfortune to be seated near at a restaurant during a lunchtime rush. I would like to think otherwise but HILLBILLY ELEGY is nothing more than RAGGED DICK for the present age. It's no wonder that an interview with Vance in The American Conservative magazine was key to popularizing the book.