When most people talk about poverty it’s usually in the context of the urban black environment. The truth is there are more white poor, than black poor. This book shows us poverty through the scope of the white underclass, often referred to as hillbilly, redneck, or white trash. J.D. Vance takes us through the Rust Belt and helps us understand what went wrong there. Through wonderful stories about his Appalachian grandparents and terrible stories of his drug addicted mother, we come to understand how complicated it is to eradicate poverty in America. Poverty, drug addiction, alcoholism, and violence are the staples of Vance’s childhood. A hard book to get through, but even harder to put down.
Primarily a memoir, Vance peppers his story with sociological and political opinions and insights. This is intelligently written. His perspective is of a young man who escaped from the self-pitying, unemployed rust belt. The traditions of his family are edgy and of value, such as patriotism and loyalty to family above all, albeit mixed with violent impulses. — John, Vroman's
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.