Hillbilly Elegy J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy

By J. D. Vance

  • Release Date: 2016-06-28
  • Genre: Sociology
Score: 4.5
From 1,461 Ratings
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"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

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. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.


  • Loved this book!

    By Mkfroehlich
    What an amazing inspiration and eye opening story! Thank you for writing and sharing your experiences with the world
  • Google it.

    By Batfacegirl
    I identified with J.D's life, I was his mother. I grew up in a small East Texas town, with an alcoholic father, and depressed mother. My children suffered same as J.D, my son could have written this book. The town suffered immensely when the Champion paper mill shut down, along with the Texas Foundry and Lufkin Industries. Poverty and drugs affect the white and black, who were once segregated, but now suffer together. The hard working class Mexico immigrants have moved into my childhood neighborhood. Buying up all the homes that my middle class neighbors took pride in. My children and I were lucky and escaped the town, brain drained, (?). We live happily in Austin, Texas now and are prospering. We have had to learn a new better way to deal with our emotions We are God fearing, loving Christians and we give credit to Gods intervention n our lives. Yes, I can relate, some of us slip away and some never make it out. J.D's story has a happy ending.
  • Regret this

    By Chumrose
    I regret buying and reading this. What I thought would be a great read on overcoming the odds turned out to be a self-serving and simplistic.
  • Bob Kemp's Review

    By Bob From Afton
    This was a tough but very compelling storyline. There is no doubt in my mind JD Vance overcame real obstacles to get to where he is today. His story is honest and is told without a lot of wallowing in self-pity. This was a good read.
  • Enlightening

    By jamieger
    This type of book is not my typical read. On a whim I downloaded it prior to a flight. I found myself absorbed in it quite quickly. It seemed that things that never made sense about this part of the U.S. were suddenly a lot clearer. The solution, no - but the problem finally laid out in a way that made me see the magnitude of the problem for this sector of the population. Well, for all of us really. The impacts are felt by us all...y
  • An outstanding, insightful book

    By askmar
    Why is poverty entrenched in various portions of America? The author relates his youth in growing up in rural Ohio and provides many insights to the culture, upbringing, and beliefs that make it difficult if not impossible for most to escape the bonds of poverty.
  • A good start to addressing a delicate subject

    By frostitude
    This book took a very different angle than what I was expecting. However, it just scratches the surface. And now we live in a climate where being informed, being educated, is considered elitist. So unfortunately the very subset of the population that needs to hear this most probably never will.
  • Hillbilly Elergy

    By Ms. Hush Puppy
    An excellent 'participant-observer' ethnology of an American experience. A true and honest analysis of a part of the US cultural by-passed by so many, yet truly American. Clearly written, clearly analyzed, clearly argued.
  • "Hillbilly Stock"

    By Dr. Tackett
    I come from Hillbilly stock! This is the best, most honest book I have read about the problems my kin had, have and why. For decades I never wanted to admit this fact. I would say "my father's family came from Robertson County Kentucky before they moved to Ohio." This book has enabled me to admit to the fact that most of my dad's relatives (Tackett's) come from the mountains of eastern Kentucky. They made the migration to New Richmond, Ohio in the 1910's to find work. Then Dad moved to Dayton, Ohio in the 1950's joining his mom, stepdad and nearly half of his seven siblings to find work at a cement plant in Fairborn, Ohio. A loving grandmother (dad's mom), caring step-grandfather (her second husband), great high school (Stebbins High School in Dayton) and a baptist pastor (Rev. Payne) originally from eastern Kentucky saved me from a life of destruction. I was the first in my family to graduate from college, get a master's degree (2 actually) and a doctorate in clinical psychology. I have been in practice in Louisville, Kentucky occasionally helping mountain people who moved to the big city learn how to build a meaningful life in Louisville. I would recommend this book to anyone who comes from a troubled family and that is most of us!
  • Great book!

    By Lamplovin
    Intimate, encapsulating, and overall entertaining to read