Hillbilly Elegy

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  • Genre: Sociology
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Score: 4.5 0 5
1,538 Ratings

Hillbilly Elegy Book Summary


"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.

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Hillbilly Elegy - J. D. Vance Reviews

  • Would love to chat with J.D.

    By The Last of 8
    This book was interesting to me. I was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio. I moved away for college and work and will return soon. The lives and situations of which he writes caused me to reflect on my upbringing in this town. While my experiences reflect little of J.D.'s, I am familiar with people who lived similar lives to J.D.. I would enjoy a conversation with J.D. to discuss our common and not so common experiences in this town. Would also be interesting to hear more of his opinions on cause/effect and any particular suggestions for contributing to solutions. Thanks for the interesting perspective on my hometown.
  • Hillbilly Elegy

    By Rexecsteb
  • Insightful

    By Aray818_
    Thought provoking and relatable
  • Loved this book!

    By Mkfroehlich
    What an amazing inspiration and eye opening story! Thank you for writing and sharing your experiences with the world
  • Google it.

    By Batfacegirl
    I identified with J.D's life, I was his mother. I grew up in a small East Texas town, with an alcoholic father, and depressed mother. My children suffered same as J.D, my son could have written this book. The town suffered immensely when the Champion paper mill shut down, along with the Texas Foundry and Lufkin Industries. Poverty and drugs affect the white and black, who were once segregated, but now suffer together. The hard working class Mexico immigrants have moved into my childhood neighborhood. Buying up all the homes that my middle class neighbors took pride in. My children and I were lucky and escaped the town, brain drained, (?). We live happily in Austin, Texas now and are prospering. We have had to learn a new better way to deal with our emotions We are God fearing, loving Christians and we give credit to Gods intervention n our lives. Yes, I can relate, some of us slip away and some never make it out. J.D's story has a happy ending.
  • Regret this

    By Chumrose
    I regret buying and reading this. What I thought would be a great read on overcoming the odds turned out to be a self-serving and simplistic.
  • Bob Kemp's Review

    By Bob From Afton
    This was a tough but very compelling storyline. There is no doubt in my mind JD Vance overcame real obstacles to get to where he is today. His story is honest and is told without a lot of wallowing in self-pity. This was a good read.
  • Enlightening

    By jamieger
    This type of book is not my typical read. On a whim I downloaded it prior to a flight. I found myself absorbed in it quite quickly. It seemed that things that never made sense about this part of the U.S. were suddenly a lot clearer. The solution, no - but the problem finally laid out in a way that made me see the magnitude of the problem for this sector of the population. Well, for all of us really. The impacts are felt by us all...y
  • An outstanding, insightful book

    By askmar
    Why is poverty entrenched in various portions of America? The author relates his youth in growing up in rural Ohio and provides many insights to the culture, upbringing, and beliefs that make it difficult if not impossible for most to escape the bonds of poverty.
  • A good start to addressing a delicate subject

    By frostitude
    This book took a very different angle than what I was expecting. However, it just scratches the surface. And now we live in a climate where being informed, being educated, is considered elitist. So unfortunately the very subset of the population that needs to hear this most probably never will.

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