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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
por J. D. Vance
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Later printing as new.
Thought it was mediocre at the time, but seeing what he's become I'm sorry I ever read it in the first place.
More like a 3.5
I enjoyed this and there were some interesting insights into the Hillbilly mentality that has allowed Trump to become president.
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Vance, a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, provides an 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. 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. 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.
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Vance manages to survive his childhood and attend Yale Law School. He describes his life and the obstacles he faced and then extrapolates his experiences to that of the working class people of this geographic area. He describes people who are independent, proud, tough, and yet also terrible decision makers. His observations will probably resonate more with conservatives than liberals, but his book really isn't political. He paints a picture of the poor working class families and simply observes that it is truly hard to solve the type of systemic problems that they face. It is interesting how there is a combination of internal cultural issues combined with external "the world has changed" factors that create sometimes seemingly insurmountable problems.
Vance shows us a world that is often hidden and that elites often denigrate through his unique lens - - having personally stood on both sides of the spectrum. I found his perspective and his writing to be fascinating and most importantly, nuanced.
But mostly, he tells us a story of a man who overcame numerous obstacles and bucked the odds. Who doesn't like a story like that?
On another note, this book would be an excellent book club read. There's plenty to talk about. One question I would immediately ask is "Does Vance give credit to the right people for his success? Discuss."