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




Overview -

Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

Vance's grandparents were "dirt poor and in love." They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.

Delving into his own personal story and drawing on a wide array of sociological studies, Vance takes us deep into working class life in the Appalachian region. This demographic of our country has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, and Vance provides a searching and clear-eyed attempt to understand when and how "hillbillies" lost faith in any hope of upward mobility, and in opportunities to come.

At times funny, disturbing, and deeply moving, this is a family history that is also a troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large portion of this country.

Freshman Common Read: University of Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State University, Flager University, Miami University (Ohio), University of Denver, Augustana College, Fairmount State University, University of Notre Dame--Peter Thiel, entrepreneur, investor, and author of Zero to One

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Overview

Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

Vance's grandparents were "dirt poor and in love." They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.

Delving into his own personal story and drawing on a wide array of sociological studies, Vance takes us deep into working class life in the Appalachian region. This demographic of our country has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, and Vance provides a searching and clear-eyed attempt to understand when and how "hillbillies" lost faith in any hope of upward mobility, and in opportunities to come.

At times funny, disturbing, and deeply moving, this is a family history that is also a troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large portion of this country.

Freshman Common Read: University of Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State University, Flager University, Miami University (Ohio), University of Denver, Augustana College, Fairmount State University, University of Notre Dame--Peter Thiel, entrepreneur, investor, and author of Zero to One

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062300553
  • ISBN-10: 0062300555
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • Publish Date: May 2018
  • Page Count: 288
  • Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.68 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Book clubs: New in paperback

J.D. Vance’s bestselling Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis is a timely consideration of life in working-class America. The son of a drug-addict mother and an absent father, Vance was brought up in Ohio by his native Kentuckian grandparents, who were steeped in the ways of Appalachia. A quarrelsome pair with a colorful past, they managed to give Vance the support he needed to move forward in life. Over the years, Vance—a Marine who served in Iraq and a Yale graduate—conquered the challenges of his upbringing and came into his own. Now a thriving lawyer, he chronicles his path to achievement in a compelling narrative that delivers an unflinching look at the difficulties of succeeding in contemporary America. Mixing social science, history and personal recollection, Vance writes with sensitivity about the barriers that often prevent working-class people from prospering, including the temptation of drugs. This is an earnest and important book that’s sure to resonate with readers.

GRACE BE WITH YOU
A smart, funny and affectionately rendered family portrait, Patricia Lockwood’s unforgettable memoir, Priestdaddy, was named one of the best books of 2017 by BookPage, The New Yorker, the Washington Post and many other publications. At the center of the narrative is Lockwood’s father, a Catholic priest who doesn’t quite fit the mold of a holy man. He plays guitar, appreciates fast cars, enjoys action movies and likes guns. After an emergency forces Lockwood and her husband to stay with her parents in the Kansas City rectory where she grew up, the young couple find they have some adjusting to do. Lockwood’s husband is puzzled by Catholicism, and Lockwood—no longer a churchgoer—struggles to come to terms with the beliefs that served as her family’s foundation. Lockwood writes vividly about her youth, recalling difficult incidents from her past, including her attempt at suicide. An accomplished poet, she beautifully reflects on the intricate ties of kinship and the complexities of organized religion. Book clubs will find much to savor and discuss in this incisive narrative.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
In her latest literary accomplishment, the National Book Award-winning novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward tells the story of a broken family in Mississippi. Thirteen-year-old Jojo—the son of Michael, a white man, and Leonie, a black woman—struggles to find his way in the world. A drug user haunted by her brother’s death, Leonie doesn’t provide much in the way of home life for Jojo and his little sister, Kayla, who find stability in their grandparents. When Michael is released from jail, Leonie travels north to meet him, taking Jojo and Kayla with her. During the trip, Jojo discovers that he can talk to the ghost of a boy named Richie, who died years ago in a prison camp. The novel is narrated in turn by Jojo, Leonie and the ghost. A virtuoso storyteller, Ward shifts points of view effortlessly to create a richly atmospheric portrait of the South.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 

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