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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
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Archive: Other Books > Hillbilly Elegy/Vance - 4 stars

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Anita Pomerantz | 6438 comments This book is part memoir, part sociological treatise with a much heavier emphasis on the former. Vance was born in Jackson, Kentucky and raised in a small town in Ohio. A self-described "hillbilly", he survives a tumultuous childhood (think parade of step fathers, drug addicted mother, multiple moves) thanks mostly to his strong bond with his grandmother, Mamaw.

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."


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7759 comments This will actually be my next book club read! So glad to hear that it should generate good conversation and am writing down your question now.

This book caught my eye when it first came out but yours is the first review I have seen from someone I know (I think). I am looking forward to it!!


Anita Pomerantz | 6438 comments Nicole R wrote: "This will actually be my next book club read! So glad to hear that it should generate good conversation and am writing down your question now.

This book caught my eye when it first came out but y..."


I do think it will generate some great discussion. It is interesting to me why some people overcome circumstance and others do not. Vance writes very honestly and forthrightly about his experiences, and he does learn some things about himself when he enters into a relationship, but I expect there will be still more learning to come (and that his perspective may continue to evolve) as he ages . . .and when he becomes a parent. I think you will enjoy reading it, and there's plenty of political places one can take the discussion, but I actually think there's lots of things to discuss without even going there.


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