Cover image for Hillbilly elegy : a memoir of a family and culture in crisis
Hillbilly elegy : a memoir of a family and culture in crisis
Large print edition.
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381 pages (large print) ; 23 cm.
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Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis -- that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.


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Book LP 305.562 VAN 0 1
Book LP 305.562 VAN 0 1
Book LP 305.562 VAN 0 1

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A #1 New York Times BestsellerHillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis -- that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.

Author Notes

J.D. Vance grew up in Middletown, Ohio, and Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served for four years in Iraq. He is a graduate of the Ohio State University (2007-2009) Political Science and Philosophy, Summa Cum Laude and Yale Law School, Doctor of Law (J.D.) (2010-2013). He has contributed to the National Review and is the author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. He is also a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this compelling hybrid of memoir and sociological analysis, Vance digs deep into his upbringing in the hills of Jackson, Ky., and the suburban enclave of Middletown, Ohio. He chronicles with affection-and raw candor-the foibles, shortcomings, and virtues of his family and their own attempts to live their lives as working-class people in a middle-class world. Readers get to know his tough-as-nails grandmother, Mawmaw, who almost killed a man when she was 12 in Jackson, but who has to live among the sewing circles of Middletown. Her love for children, and for her grandson in particular, fuels her dream to become a children's attorney. When Vance finishes high school, he's not ready to head off to Ohio State, so Vance joins the Marines, completes a tour of duty in Iraq, and returns home with a surer sense of what he wants out of life and how to get it. He eventually enrolls in Yale Law School and becomes a successful lawyer, doggedly reflecting on the keys to his own success-family and community-and the ways they might help him understand the issues at stake in social policies today. Vance observes that hillbillies like himself are helped not by government policy but by community that empowers them and extended family who encourages them to take control of their own destinies. Vance's dynamic memoir takes a serious look at class. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Things could have so easily turned out differently for Vance. Growing up in a working-class family riven by strife and seemingly incapable of escaping its rural Kentucky roots, Vance spent his youth bouncing between homes, a succession of father figures, and ever more explosive situations. The story of how he overcame his upbringing to graduate from Yale Law School and embark on a stable and happy adulthood poses the bigger question of how the obstacles facing other such hillbillies can be surmounted. Vance compellingly describes the terrible toll that alcoholism, drug abuse, and an unrelenting code of honor took on his family, neither excusing the behavior nor condemning it. Instead, he pulls back to examine the larger social forces at work for white, working-class Americans with ties to Appalachia. The portrait that emerges is a complex one, where die-hard cultural beliefs contribute to a downward spiral for Vance's family and those like them. Unerringly forthright, remarkably insightful, and refreshingly focused, Hillbilly Elegy is the cry of a community in crisis.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2016 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

HILLBILLY ELEGY: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance. (Harper, $16.99.) Vance uses the lens of his childhood to analyze the despair and stagnation of his white working-class America. He doesn't hesitate to blame Appalachian culture, which he says "increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it," but offers a compassionate primer on the struggles of the white underclass. COMPASS, by Mathias Énard. Translated by Charlotte Mandeli. (New Directions, $18.95.) The narrator, a Viennese musicologist dying of an unknown illness, spends a sleepless night dreaming of his travels to the Levant; the careers and work of other scholars of the East he has known; and his great love. The novel won the Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize, in 2015. MERCIES IN DISGUISE: A Story of Hope, a Family's Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them, by Gina Kolata. (St. Martin's, $16.99.) Kolata, a science reporter for The Times, follows members of the Baxley family, who were blindsided after learning their father had a rare neurodegenerative disorder. As they grapple with their own risk, the story poses a wrenching question: Would you want to know if you carried a fatal genetic mutation? SWIMMER AMONG THE STARS: Stories, by Kanishk Tharoor. (Picador, $16.) In tales that leap across time and space, Tharoor considers the tensions of cultural preservation and loss, and the burdens of power. A princess's gesture has profound consequences for an elephant; diplomats orbiting Earth must choose a new headquarters for the United Nations. And in the title story, ethnographers pay a visit to the last speaker of a language, who tries to invent words for modern terms: astronaut, tractor, prime minister. JANE AUSTEN: The Secret Radical, by Helena Kelly. (Vintage, $17.) In the 200 years since her death, Austen has remained categorically misunderstood, and deserves to be read with an eye to Britain's politics of the time, Kelly argues. She is particularly convincing on the Austen family's designs to neutralize Jane's image over the decades; as our reviewer, John Sutherland, put it, "Colin Firth's wet shirt is hung out to dry." GIRL IN SNOW, by Danya Kukafka. (Simon & Schuster, $16.) After the murder of a beautiful teenager, Lucinda Hayes, three misfit characters offer clues to the crime: the outcast who loved - and stalked - Lucinda; a classmate who couldn't stand her; and even the police officer investigating the case, with a personal connection to a leading suspect. This thrilling debut novel has strains of "Twin Peaks."

Choice Review

J. D. Vance is from a working-class, Scots-Irish background who, by his own admission, "grew up poor, in the Rust Belt, in an Ohio steel town that has been hemorrhaging jobs and hope for as long as I can remember." A self-described hillbilly, he was able to rise above his impoverished circumstances to graduate from college and then go on to earn a law degree from Yale. Though the memoir sometimes lapses into overwrought descriptions of dysfunctional relationships and seemingly hopeless situations, Vance provides in-depth, unforgiving descriptions of the working-class culture of Appalachia. He explains the more positive aspects of his culture, such as the fierce loyalty to family, tradition, and country, as well as the more negative aspects, such as the high rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, and unemployment--even when jobs remain open not for a lack of potential employees but because of a lack of interest. Vance also explains how he defied statistics and tradition by rising to the level of the middle class. Summing Up: Recommended. General, public, and undergraduate collections. --Carol Apt, South Carolina State University

Kirkus Review

A Yale Law School graduate's account of his traumatic hillbilly childhood and the plight of America's angry white working class. "Americans call them hillbillies, rednecks, or white trash," writes Vance, a biotech executive and National Review contributor. "I call them neighbors, friends, and family." In this understated, engaging debut, the author reflects on his stormy journey from the coal-country Kentucky hollers of Appalachia to the declining Rust Belt to life among the Ivy League-educated elite. Born into a poor Scots-Irish familywith a pill-addicted mother and "revolving door of father figures"Vance was raised in Ohio by his beloved and newly middle-class grandparents, hardworking believers in the American dream who married in their teens and never shook the trappings (abuse, addiction, and constant fighting and screaming) of their native Kentucky's hillbilly culture. Mamaw, his grandmother, once set her husband on fire when he came home drunk; Papaw, a violent grouch, tossed a Christmas tree out the back door. In scenes at once harrowing and hilarious, we come to know these loud, rowdy gun-toters as the loyal and loving family whose encouragement helped the author endure "decades of chaos and heartbreak." In the Marines and at Yale, Vance learned to make responsible adult choices and overcame the learned helplessness that characterizes many in the working class. Pointedly identifying the cynicism and willingness to blame others endemic among that class, he describes the complex malaiseinvolving sociology, psychology, community, culture, and faiththat has left so many bereft of connections and social support and unable to find high-quality work. The solution, he believes, is not government action but in people asking themselves "what we can do to make things better." Declaring that he survived with the help of caring family and friends, he writes, "I am one lucky son of a bitch." An unusually timely and deeply affecting view of a social class whose health and economic problems are making headlines in this election year. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Growing up in Appalachia may leave a person open to harsh criticism and stereotype, yet Vance delves into his childhood and upbringing to make a clear distinction between perception and reality. Born in Kentucky and shuffling among homes in Ohio, the author ended the cycle of poverty, abuse, and drug use after becoming a U.S. Marine and Yale Law School graduate. His memoir is less about his triumph and more about exposing the gritty truth of how a culture fell into ruin. Using examples from his own life with references to articles and studies throughout, Vance's intent is to show that what was once the fulfillment of the American Dream-moving to the Rust Belt for a better life-has now left families in peril. His plea is not for sympathy but for understanding. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this memoir is akin to investigative journalism. While some characters seem too caricaturelike, it is often those terrifyingly authentic traits that make people memorable. Vance is careful to point out that this is his recollection of events; not everyone is painted in a positive light. -VERDICT A quick and engaging read, this book is well suited to anyone interested in a study of modern America, as Vance's assertions about Appalachia are far more reaching.-Kaitlin Malixi, formerly at Virginia Beach P.L. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.