HILLBILLY ELEGY by J.D. Vance: A Review

This 2016 memoir/sociological analysis of the “Hillbilly culture, mind and attitude” was selected by my Third Tuesday Book Club as its January selection.  I had read about this book before, but did not read it because it sounded “depressing.” Instead, I found a young man who OVERCAME every obstacle thrown his way.  If anything, Hillbilly Elegy is inspiring. I wish I had looked at the author’s picture inside the back cover first, for it caused me to gain respect that one so young could be so philosophical about how hard his life could have been (and the scars and holdovers from that life that still plague him) then give his story and his conclusions about what it means to have been “raised hillbilly,”in order to make Americans take a hard look at Hillbilly culture.

Raised in the “Rust Belt” of Middletown, Ohio, and shuttled back and forth between Middletown and Appalachian Jackson, Kentucky, Vance’s affections are forcibly switched between his “low-class” mother and his hillbilly-crude, but fiercely-loving, grandparents.

Now a graduate of Yale Law School, Vance has written “…a compassionate,discerning, sociological, analysis…” of the “hillbilly problem” that will make every reader stop, think, and wonder, “How can I help?” This surely was the purpose the author had in mind as he wrote the book. He mourns the demise of the “American Dream” and sees it from close-up since he inherited this “legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma.”

The book includes some humor, much sadness, and many uplifting moments, gathered together in the final chapters. It is a good read, an important book that every American should be exposed to.