Hillbilly Elegy ~ J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Rating: 3/5

I listened to J.D. Vance’s memoir on audio. I’ve been doing a lot more of that since I’ve been stuck at home due to Covid-19. We’ve been puzzling, cross-stitching, doing lots of cleaning and extra chores, and hiking as much as we’re able. All of these activities are great for audiobooks.

I’d heard mixed reviews about Hillbilly Elegy when it first came out, as so many were seeking answers from just this one person about why so much of rural Appalachia voted for President Trump. This book did not provide those answers, and Vance continued to insert throughout his story that he was not trying to speak for all of rural Appalachia (although he did sometimes seem to slip into trying to understand the population as a whole at times).

Vance’s story focused primarily on his childhood, and things that went right and wrong for him. He seems to be processing about how he has been able to have a more successful life than many of the people he saw around him growing up. Vance continues to stop and make his privilege known, sometimes taking direct ownership of it, sometimes less so. But he does draw clear lines between himself and what was happening around him, recognizing that in many senses he was on the outside as his parents were college educated and pursuing careers.

Vance ties humor into the book throughout, finding comedic memories of his past and writing about them in a way that lets readers in on the light-hearted moments of his past as well as some of the heavier side of poverty.

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