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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  175,992 Ratings  ·  19,552 Reviews
«Ήμουν ένα απ’ αυτά τα παιδιά με το δυσοίωνο μέλλον. Παραλίγο να παρατήσω το λύκειο. Παραλίγο να παραδοθώ κι εγώ σ’ εκείνη τη βαθιά οργή και πίκρα που έχει καταλάβει τους πάντες γύρω μου. Σήμερα οι άνθρωποι με βλέπουν, με την ωραία μου δουλειά και τα λαμπερά μου πτυχία, και φαντάζονται πως είμαι κάποιου είδους ιδιοφυΐα ― ότι μονάχα ένας εξαιρετικά προικισμένος άνθρωπος θα ...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…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)
Garrison Mcdavid Sir, I heard an interview between Charlie Rose and Mr. Vance night before last. Immediately, I became mesmerized by what they were saying. I had a…moreSir, I heard an interview between Charlie Rose and Mr. Vance night before last. Immediately, I became mesmerized by what they were saying. I had a Eureka moment, an ah ha. In the same vein, I participated in a book discussion of Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Thousand Acres. I have found through travel from where I am so attached helps me assimilate the change. Change has occurred at enormous speed since the internet and Facebook have enabled corporate profits to increase through worker exploitation. Hillbillies are excellent workers. They take pride in doing a job well, bearing considerable stress for their family's good, and believe in heaven as an award for self-flagellation. Yes, it does get better by being true to one's own self. I wish we could all "speak what we feel, not what we ought" a line from King Lear of Shakespeare's time. As a SW Virginian by birth having passed through the excesses of 80s banking in Manhattan and East Hampton, travel in South and Central America, and found peace and career challenge in Spain, I suggest that we all get off our chests the worries we have through keeping a journal (The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron), visiting an unfamiliar part of the US or other country on a shoe string budget, and realizing change is constant. Keep the faith, but lose the past.(less)

Community Reviews

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Julie
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is a 2016 Harper publication.

When I first noticed this book popping up on Goodreads, I admit the title really threw me. I hate that word ‘hillbilly’ because it sounds derisive and conjures up stereotypes. But, then, I noticed the reviews were stellar for the most part, and so I took a closer look.

Once I finished reading this book, I was stunned. I actually shed tears, and nearly talked myself out of leaving a comment at all. But, my husband convinced me to at leas
...more
Jessica
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jon
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Christy
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
...more
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
Elyse
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook

My local book club will be discussing this book this month. I'll be attending- I almost took a 'pass'. I'm really glad I didn't.

THE CONTROVERSY and DISCUSSIONS from reviews on Goodreads is already ENGAGING!!!! Seriously, I spent more time reading through every review - and all the comments on THIS BOOK - more than any book in all my years on Goodreads.
My interest elevated - and my emotions were entangled. The passion of expression from people about this book - positive and negative -
...more
Elizabeth
...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
...more
Matthew
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
...more
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
...more
Candace
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
...more
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 get
...more
Justin
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
...more
Lyn
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
...more
Delee
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
...more
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
Darwin8u
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

description
(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. Va
...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
Jessaka
Jan 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
HILLBILLY ELEGIST: YOUR BOOK SMELLS BAD ENOUGH TO KNOCKA BUZZARD OFF A SHIT WAGON

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.
ju
...more
Cheri

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
...more
Pouting Always
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really 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. I really did enjoy the book though and I felt Vance was insightful. The only thing is he seems to start to lose steam by the end of the book but ending books is always harder than beginning them. I ...more
Laurie Anderson
Dec 27, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I grew up in a similar community.... wanted to like this book, but I lost all respect for it because the author didn't discuss the enormous issue of racism in the context of rural white poverty. A cowardly omission.
Trish
A twitter storm this summer brought this book to my attention. I read several articles and interviews with Vance before managing to get my hands on a copy. That circuitous introduction led me to expect some kind of treatise on working class attitudes, so at first I experienced the work through the distorting lens of others’ interpretations.

This book is not any kind of treatise. It is a brave, funny, unsentimental growing-up story, introducing us to a cussin’ gun-brandishing grandmaw who knew in
...more
MomToKippy
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
Jennifer
"This was my world: a world of truly irrational behavior. We spend our way into the poorhouse. We buy giant TVs and iPads...Thrift is inimical to our being...Our homes are a chaotic mess. We scream and yell at each other like we're spectators at a football game. At least one member of the family uses drugs...At especially stressful times, we'll hit and punch each other, all in front of the rest of the family, including young children...We don't study as children, and we don't make our kids study ...more
Heidi The Hippie Reader
Intense memoir of J.D. Vance's childhood and eventual rise. It reminded me of Angela's Ashes except that instead of Ireland, it took place in Kentucky/Ohio and the drug of choice was prescription pills rather than alcohol. I was astonished that J.D. not only survived, but thrived. He credits his grandparents with saving his life, but a lot of different factors came together at the right time to propel him out of his dead end hometown. This is that story.

In his own words: "Whatever talents I have
...more
Esil
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I listened to the audio of Hillbilly Elegies. J.D. Vance reads it himself. I found it moving and captivating, but I'm not quite sure what my take away is -- and I've decided that that doesn't really matter because Vance is an interesting guy with a really interesting story to tell. He was born in Ohio, but his grandparents were originally from the hills of Kentucky. He refers to them as "hillbillies", painting a complex demographic picture of his family and background. Vance grew up mostly with ...more
Liz
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
...more
Rae Meadows
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved reading about Vance's family, about his Appalachian roots, and his rust-belt childhood. His grandparents (Mamaw and Papaw) are phenomenally drawn characters. There are plenty of cliches in the writing, but Vance is an observant and sincere guide.

Like Vance's grandparents, my dad's grandparents were also Scots-Irish from Kentucky who migrated to the Midwest to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Also like Vance, my dad was the first of his family to attend college and is a staunch conservat
...more
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889 followers
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 Philosophy ...more
More about J.D. Vance

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“Barack Obama strikes at the heart of our deepest insecurities. He is a good father while many of us aren’t. He wears suits to his job while we wear overalls, if we’re lucky enough to have a job at all. His wife tells us that we shouldn’t be feeding our children certain foods, and we hate her for it—not because we think she’s wrong but because we know she’s right. Many” 85 likes
“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.” 65 likes
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