Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J.D. Vance
Published: June 2016
Man, this book had A LOT of hype. Well-read friends and raving articles alike have touted it as the beacon of light into the darkness that is the downtrodden, forgotten working class of Rust Belt / Middle America. While it definitely offers a glimpse into that, first and foremost this book is a memoir of the author’s family’s struggles. The personal aspect grounds the sociological studies and census reports that he dispersed throughout, and I do appreciate how he has offered up his family history as a representative of the hillbilly culture that can be foreign to those outside of it. Vance’s story really really captures the essence of the American Dream and shows how someone can rise from a culture of violence and poverty to become a marine and Yale Law School graduate (though, spoiler alert: he graciously acknowledges that his doting but hard-ass grandmother made this possible and takes almost no credit for himself)
4 out of 5 stars: I was expecting a slightly different balance of anecdotes-to-epidemiological narrative. Which is really no fault of the book! That’s on me. It was still a very informative and moving read.