From a former marine and Yale graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broad, 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 40 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 hope 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, his aunt, his uncle, his 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 humour and vividly colourful 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 the country.
©2016 J. D. Vance (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
"The memoir gripping America.... Vividly articulates the despair and disillusionment of blue-collar America." (Sunday Times)
"Vance's description of the culture he grew up in is essential reading for this moment in history." (David Brooks, New York Times)
"A beautiful memoir but it is equally a work of cultural criticism about white working-class America.... [Vance] offers a compelling explanation for why it's so hard for someone who grew up the way he did to make it...a riveting book." (Wall Street Journal)
"Quietly thoughtful, poignant...while the political timeliness of Hillbilly Elegy is undeniable, Vance truly shines when he takes us with him 'down the holler' into an America we thought we knew - until we realized how little of it we truly understood." (Huffington Post)
"Looking back on his youth, and all he fled, yields a frank, unsentimental, harrowing memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. It's a superb book given an extra layer of importance by its political reverberations: When Vance returns home these days, he sees yard after yard festooned with Trump signs." (NY Post)
"You will not read a more important book about America this year." (Economist)
In the wake of this new Brexit and Trump reality, I've been looking for books, documentaries and articles to try and understand more about all the viewpoints and reasons for voting either way, regardless of which side of the fence I personally fall - my overwhelming sense is one of a deep lack of communication and consideration between any one part of society and the others.
This audiobook delivers insight and sensitivity in SPADES and I'm so glad I listened. The story of JD Vance's upbringing, childhood community and transition into adulthood is generously and unflinchingly told, and interwoven with just enough detail on the wider political and socioeconomic history of "rust belt" America. The overall impression is of an almost dynastic family saga all the more affecting for being true - I think Anne Tyler must have a long lost nephew from Kentucky, if I were JD Vance I'd be demanding a DNA test!
Most of all, it's a really compelling listen and I wasn't expecting to enjoy it so thoroughly as I did! Top quality both in the writing and the narration. It can be touch and go when authors narrate their own audio, but Vance does an exceptional job.
A very timely book which deserves all its accolades. Don't hesitate!
Schools, social workers, courts, medical professionals, employers - all have a responsibility to our children and their families in distress; but as JD says, it's the parents of these children that bear the biggest responsibility. When those parents falter, we have to be there.
Really enjoyed this. Not an academic text but an insight into a culture I know little about from a personal point of view. Explains a bit more about why Trump is so popular. A good combination of sympathy, empathy and realism and a reminder of what children do and don't need. I would have liked a a few other perspectives eg if the author had asked his mother why she thought she behaved in the way she did, but maybe that's another book.
I am really glad I listened to this book as it gave me an insight into a culture that I knew nothing about. I was very touched and moved by this book. One of the best books I listened to in 2016.
Some books are improved by an author's narration, some aren't. This one definitely is the former. Very, very engaging.
I appreciated the duality of the author's worlds and how his youth and adulthood were at odds with each other.
Very sincere and very natural reading. It felt very informal which was perfect for the narrative.
It definitely strikes a chord of anger. Seeing how America has been destroyed by its corporate strategies and social disconcern is both heartbreaking and infuriating.
Chapter 14 should be mandatory reading in high schools. It encapsulates a strata of America that rarely has voice.
I found this book to be a very good insight into a real American life. I would have liked it to have been a bit more of how the culture lived.
Maybe I missed something but overall it was very informative, well written and narrated.
The candid writing style and level of detail about the main and auxillary characters. As well as it's ability to act as a window into a type of life which seems very alien from those you often meet.
Any of the stories which involved Mamal. Sounded like an amazing woman.
Absolutely recommend for those who are interested in the social changes our societies are going through as well as the challenges public policy makers have for the future.
It wasn't terrible as author narrations go, but he has one of those American voices where the tone suggests that he's saying something important when he's not. It's all very one-note. A Child Called It had a similar tone.
JD Vance fancies himself a Sociologist, but he takes limited knowledge, misinformation, disinformation and his personal experiences to make sweeping generalisations and conclusions that made me pity him his ignorance as much for his difficult life history. I had Kentucky hillbillies in my family too, but I don't convince myself that their experience is distinctive from that of other ethnic groups in the American working class, or indeed particularly interesting. The lack of race or gender analysis is truly shocking and the attempts at class analysis are woeful. I'm going to read Barbara Ehrenreich next to recuperate.
The story itself is largely misery memoir and better written and more interesting than some.
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