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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  376,475 ratings  ·  32,158 reviews
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true stor ...more
Kindle Edition, 273 pages
Published June 28th 2016 by Harper
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Sherry I have seen the answers to this question containing descriptions of, "these people", "one of them" and "non-college educated voter", I haven't read th…moreI have seen the answers to this question containing descriptions of, "these people", "one of them" and "non-college educated voter", I haven't read this title yet but being born and raised deep in the Appalachian Mountains, I'm appalled at the perceptions I see in just this one thread. Never equate intelligence with collegiate degrees, many of us who still live and work in these mountains are very well educated; And yes, college too. Before even reading this book, the comments themselves should show readers the already confirmed and rooted negative aspects that we as "Appalachian residents" face and live with every day. I found the comments to this one question enlightening and provides even more evidence that confirms the prejudice that exists against those who are from or live in any of the Appalachian areas of our nation. (less)
Cheri I think the most important thing Vance talks about is ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events). Healing trauma and bringing "normalcy" to the brains of childre…moreI think the most important thing Vance talks about is ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events). Healing trauma and bringing "normalcy" to the brains of children and adults affected by ACEs could have a huge impact, but instead our mental health system focuses on the symptoms / behaviors that result from trauma, not the root cause. I recommend The Body Keeps the Score as a place to start reading about the types of treatment that have been shown to successfully relieve the fight-or-flight pattern of those who have experience trauma.(less)

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Jessica J.
I read this book as an advance galley, long before it became a Thing and I did not read this book because I wanted Vance to explain Trump, though he's somehow been chosen by liberal media as the person to do just that (though the handful of interviews I saw seemed more like Chris Matthews wanted to pat himself on the back for having a guest with hillbilly cred than actually listening to what Vance had to say). I didn't think this book would have mass appeal because no one outside of Appalachia s ...more
Lauren Cecile
Very candid account of growing up disadvantaged and white. The parallels between his demographic and a historically, systematically marginalized Black America are evident. Both populations deserve understanding and empathy, but I tend to think the author thinks his people are somehow more noble. I would have like to seen an acknowledgment that the two groups should not be antagonistic but work together to achieve mutually beneficial economic goals.
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
2016 is the year of Donald Trump, and J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy should be at the top of every politico and thought leader's reading list living in the Acela corridor. Vance is both an excellent writer and a thoughtful person—and when combined with a compelling story, he's able to shed some light on the lives of those living on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains.

Let's start with what this book isn't. It's not an explanation of why Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, or at least no
Rebecca Robinson
I'll be honest I didn't totally finish the book before giving up. I hear Vance on NPR and the story caught my attention. Yet, what I thought would be a better analysis of American economics and poverty proved to be very different.

It's one of those conservative love stories of " I got my shit together so everyone can". While I respect the struggle Vance had, I also believe it's a very naive picture of what is going on. It explains why people FEEL a way. It does not explain the systemic issues th
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics

Ma lives in the holler
way back yander thar.
she plays the fiddle and sings
just like Emmy Lou.

Mamaw chews tobacco
and spits the wad right
in her old Styrofoam cup.
even in front of company.

my pa was a coal miner
and beats us younguns
cus he meaner than a polecat
and a little touched
when he is drunker
than Cootey Brown.

We refused welfare
don't believe in eating
high on the hog,
so I picked my poor self up
and so can y'all.
Bill Kerwin
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography, memoir

Have you ever wondered what became of the Scotch-Irish, who dug America’s coal, forged America’s steel and built America’s automobiles, who worked for the American Dream Monday through Friday. prayed to The Good Lord on Sunday, and revered F.D.R. and J.F.K. every day of the week? The last thing I heard, they elected Donald Trump. And I am still looking for explanations.

If you want somebody who knows Appalachian culture from inside to explain it all to you, I highly recommend Hillbilly Elegy by
reading is my hustle
...People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown. You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than twenty hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.

Why is this guy the darling of the talk show circuit right now? He thinks his fellow hillbillies just need to work harder. Problem solved! He thinks because he made it everyone else should be able to do the same. He asserts social programs won't help his lazy people but then
Miranda Reads
This books had so much more depth than I expected and honestly, I am more than a little overwhelmed.
What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives.
J.D. Vance, an ex-marine, a Yale law school graduate and self-proclaimed hillbilly, provides an absolutely unique, heart-wrenching and poignant analysis of his culture - the poor white working class.
If you believe that hard work pays off, then you work hard; if you think it’s hard to
This is an incredibly fascinating and well done book. I think that the thoughts and opinions of the author might be controversial, but he lived through it and saw the good and the bad so I will give him the benefit of the doubt on how he sees things after the way he grew up!

When I saw the name, I figured this would be reading about a real life Deliverance-esque town. However, this is more about how a boy develops into a man when dealing with being raised by a family with a “Hillbilly” background
Hell hath no fury like a strong Protestant Work Ethic without work.

Okay – that was my original, but it should have been Vance’s! Instead, he mostly blamed the poor for being poor, lazy, and generally culpable for all (and few) choices. No wonder anger and angst filled their days and nights, and they needed drugs, alcohol, and violence to trigger some brief if dysfunctional relief. Vance was born right after the decades of American prosperity post WWII when if you wanted a job you simply got one
Elyse  Walters
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Update.... Paul and I watched only about 30 minutes of the movie on Netflix. We both felt it was way too dark. It didn’t feel as authentic as the book. The cinematography was gorgeous in many parts of the movie... but with an award winning director, and two award-winning actresses… All is who I totally respect and admire their talents—-
We both felt it was way too depressing and the acting was uneven and the directing was uneven.

We just had to turn it off and are not going to finish it.

Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Three month non-ranty political review time is ovvvvvvvvvvvvvvver. Woo Hoo!!! Loooooook out Beeoooootcheeees!

“I know you real Americans hate being called stupid, but you gotta meet me half way and stop being stupid.”

Bill Maher

My empathy level for stupid Americans has diminished this last year. I have un-friended a few people I once thought to be good, intelligent, and sane. This year has opened my eyes to an ugliness and a selfishness in people that I never imagined existed in so many. And that
lark benobi
The first problem I had with this book is the author is a bonehead. On page 8 he tells us “I have known many welfare queens; some were neighbors, and all were white.”

I have no idea what I’m supposed to make of that statement. Or actually yes I do know but even so I try to look away. Because of course “welfare queen” is a derogatory term used by people of means to deride the poor, and of course it’s most commonly used to demean and dehumanize urban black poor women, but an author bragging that h
Diane S ☔
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the most timely read of the year, here in the United States. Not just a sociological view of this group of people I had heard nor read little about, but the experiences of a young man raised in this environment and pulled himself out, though he does acknowledge to receiving much help along the way. This book enlightens the reader about the huge disparity in thinking between those making the leas and those receiving the benefits of these laws, which probably hinder more than help. His st ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I set dozens of reading goals for 2017, but I won't bore you with all of them. However, this book helped me accomplish two reading goals this year:

1. Read better books
2. Read more nonfiction

This book, while difficult to read at times, is an important book, and I can't recommend it enough. It hit me pretty hard at times. I mean, I wouldn't consider myself a hillbilly, but i did grow up in the suburbs of Nashville, and I'm honestly not too far removed from some of the family members depicted in
Always Pouting
Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
When I bought this book I didn't really read the title closely so I really just assumed it said Hillbilly Energy and so I like assumed it was going to be something about solar energy on farms, I don't know I have a presumption problem clearly, so I was kind of confused when I started to read the book. The books is readable and I enjoyed in terms of it being one person's memoir. The framing is kind of one that doesn't align with me but we don't all always have to agree. Not much else to say, exce ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written, thoughtful statement about our culture; where we are now, how we got here and where we could be going.

I identify closely with the author: both of us were born poor and from divorced parents, both benefited from military service and both found a way to get through law school (coincidentally even though I am fifteen years Vance’s senior and am closer in age to his mother, he and I were in Iraq at the same time and both worked for military pubic affairs and both took part in civil a
Diane Barnes
Nov 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
5/4/2022. I am revising my review of this book because the author has proven himself to be a sham with his embracing of Donald Trump in order to win the primary in Ohio. If he can revise his opinion of DT just to get elected, how do we know anything in this book is even true? We certainly don't need more lying, unethical politicians in this country. Down to one star, and it doesn't really deserve that.

I am not quite as enamored of this book as a lot of people. It tells this young man's story of
J.L.   Sutton
I didn't really want to read J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, but it sort of felt like a car crash you know is right in front of you. It's tough to keep your eyes closed and not peek. Even before I opened the book, I reflected that the 'hillbilly' culture Vance describes as in crises is the same culture that was in crisis 100 years ago. I wondered whether there was something about these people (my people as it turns out) who just need to act out every so often and make sure they're noticed. There w ...more
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
“One way our upper class can promote upward mobility, then, is not only by pushing wise public policies but by opening their hearts and minds to the newcomers who don’t quite belong.”
― J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

(my dad's father [center on the stairs], uncle, and other workers during harvest)

The writing and conclusions of this book are probably a 3-star, but emotionally this is a 4-star book for me (thus my vacillating between 3&4-stars). J.D. Vance
UPDATE: MAY 13. 2022

Why would I retract the good things I wrote about J.D. Vance in my review? Read this:

Vance used various descriptions of his disdain for Trump. Vance said he was a “Never Trump guy,” “never liked him,” “will never vote for Trump,” “loathed” Trump, called Trump’s election “terrible for the country,” and described him as “dangerous” and “reprehensible.” Vance claimed to have voted for Independent candidate Evan McMullin in 2016, but previously said he might vote for Hillary Cl
First and foremost, let me say that I am not a big non-fiction reader. Every once in a while, I need a change of pace or something catches my eye that isn't my typical smutty romance. Sometimes it works out for me and I learn something new. Other times, the "enlightening" read is about as entertaining as having a lobotomy. Sadly, this book fell into the latter category for me.

I picked up 'Hillbilly Elegy' because the blurb sounded interesting enough and I really don't know much about the Appalac

Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. My father grew up in the hollers of West Virginia in a small town that hasn’t changed very much (if at all) since he lived there. Oh, wait. They changed the name of the street he grew up on from Pennsylvania Avenue to something sounding less presidential. Other than that, I’d be surprised if anything had changed. His grandfather built the house he grew up in when my grandfather was a little boy in short britches. It was a big jump up from living on the fami
I am really not impressed by the author's hillbilly credentials. He writes a "memoir" at 31 for starters. If you have not read this you may be disappointed as I was because he did NOT grow up in the hills and hollers of Kentucky. His grandmother's family did and she left there for small town Ohio at the ripe old age of 13. He even changed his name to Vance - which is one of his ancient ancestors who was part of the Hatfield and McCoy clan. So much of what he shares is hand me down stories from h ...more
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
J.D Vance's grandparents set the basis for this life story. They move from the hills of Kentucky to Ohio chasing a better life. J.D.'s life is in both places. He does live a life that is very familiar here in the southeast. His real dad gives him up, he is told by his mom and Mamaw that his dad doesn't want him anymore. He is adopted by one of his mother's many men. Who also ends up leaving. J.D.'s mom is a revolving door of different men. (I'm not judging her as I see this lifestyle taking plac ...more
Justin Tate
Didn't see what the fuss was about, but maybe that's because I grew up in a small town and am familiar with 'hillbilly' mentality. If you read this and are shocked, then you probably are a part of the 'elite' class and could use the experience of seeing how the other side lives. Actual hillbillies reading this (probably none) might feel inspired by J. D.'s story.

There are some moderately intriguing tidbits of political insight. Notably a passage where Vance considers why the Obamas are so resent
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs

A good friend of mine told me I had to read this if I wanted to understand how Donald Trump won the election. But that's not to say this is a political book. Part memoir and part social treatise, the book attempts to explain the mindset of the poor whites of the Appalachian/Midwest geographic area. Mostly Scotch-Irish, they are a proud people with a split mindset when it comes to beliefs vs. actions, especially concerning work ethic, religion and the value of education.

J.D. Vance basically goes
Sep 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the worst, most pernicious type of hack ideological trash. I wanted to read it because it purports to offer a telling sociological portrait of the regions from which my in-laws hail, and the supposed "hillbilly" culture that ostensibly defines those same regions (SW Ohio and Kentucky). What this book actually is is a infantile memoir written by a self-hating, self-defining "hillbilly" who traffics in right-wing garbage arguments. The book's primary argument is that poor people suffe ...more
Dr. Appu Sasidharan

This book deals with the Vance family's heart-wrenching story, who moved to Ohio from Kentucky after the war. The difficulties of raising a middle-class family in the midwest are very well conveyed through this memoir. It is discussing many vital topics like alcoholism, abuse, and poverty. The author chronicles what happened to the American dream in the rust belt in the cold war era.
"We don’t study as children, and we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. Our kids perform po
Jan 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the worst books I have ever read in my life. While I respect J.D. Vance's self-identification as Appalachian based on his family ties to Kentucky, Vance shows in this book that he has little if any understanding of the Appalachian region or its people. In fact, he appears to have little understanding of any section of the world. Poverty is a problem in Appalachia, but not everyone in the region is impoverished. Many people in the region and in America are descended from Scots-Iris ...more
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J.D. Vance is an investor, a political and public policy commentator, and a bestselling author. Raised by his working class grandparents in Middletown, Ohio, J.D. graduated from Middletown High School in 2003 and then enlisted in the Marine Corps. He deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After graduating from Ohio State University where he studied Political Science and Philosoph ...more

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91 likes · 108 comments
“What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.” 90 likes
“I remember watching an episode of The West Wing about education in America, which the majority of people rightfully believe is the key to opportunity. In it, the fictional president debates whether he should push school vouchers (giving public money to schoolchildren so that they escape failing public schools) or instead focus exclusively on fixing those same failing schools. That debate is important, of course—for a long time, much of my failing school district qualified for vouchers—but it was striking that in an entire discussion about why poor kids struggled in school, the emphasis rested entirely on public institutions. As a teacher at my old high school told me recently, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids. But no one wants to talk about the fact that many of them are raised by wolves.” 84 likes
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