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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
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December 2017: Social Issues > Hillbilly Elegy / J.D. Vance - 4****

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message 1: by Book Concierge (last edited Dec 31, 2017 08:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5803 comments Hillbilly Elegy A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance

Subtitle: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.

Vance is a former Marine, a graduate of Ohio State and Yale Law School. But getting to his current place in life was a struggle, given his family upbringing. His grandparents left Kentucky’s Appalachia – “dirt poor and in love” – when they were still teenagers, moving north to Ohio and the promise of factory jobs. Papaw did get a job, and lifted his family into the working middle class. But it was not so easy to leave behind the effects of generations suffering from abuse, alcoholism, poverty and trauma. In this memoir, Vance relates how his grandparents, uncles, aunts, mother, and sister struggled, and reflects on how he himself still carries the emotional scars of his chaotic young life.

A few things helped him escape. His older sister provided a buffer for the young J.D., and took on a maternal role that helped keep both of them out of the foster care system. A few key teachers identified his native ability and nurtured it. His mother, for all her faults and drug abuse, instilled in him a love of learning and reading. Most importantly, perhaps, his grandparents provided a stable home life when it really mattered.

He is brutally honest looking at his life and at the culture of the working poor. He reviews government policies that are (probably) intended to help, but that frequently are doomed to fail. He offers insight into how the working poor, themselves, might change some of these outcomes, the small and large steps – all of them difficult to take – that would give the next generation a fighting chance.

There were sections that made me smile, even laugh. But there were many more sections of the book that saddened and worried me. But I am glad that Vance wrote it, and I’m glad that I read it.

Early in the book he writes:
I was one of those kids with a grim future. I almost failed out of high school. I nearly gave in to the deep anger and resentment harbored by everyone around me … Whatever talents, I have I almost squandered until a handful of loving people rescued me.

That is the real story of my life, and that is why I wrote this book. I want people to know what it feels like to nearly give up on yourself and why you might do it. I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children. I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it. I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels. And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.

LINK to my review

Jason Oliver | 2063 comments A wonderful book. I hope this becomes a required high school read one day

Doughgirl5562 | 728 comments My book club will be reading this this year. I'm both looking forward to it ... and a little scared of what I will find out.

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