Book Rating (154)
Narrator Rating (45)

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

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J. D. Vance

6 Hours 50 Minutes

HarperCollins Publishers

June 2016

Audio Book Summary

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerfulaccount of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader,probing look at the struggles of America's white working classHillbilly 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.

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Reviews

  • Barb Silver

    I really enjoyed listening to this story, and felt that Vance offers insights grounded in real life experiences for those "just-pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps" types who don't understand how sociocultural barriers keep people in poverty, generation after generation. My only complaint is the flat narrative - the author should have let someone else read the book. Here is a man from Kentucky hillbilly country who speaks like the Yale law graduate he became - I wanted to HEAR what Mamaw really sounded like when she belted out all those profanities in a Kentucky accent. Probably better off reading the book rather than listening to it - then you can use your imagination and laugh out loud (or cry) at some of the great dialogue.

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  • Dawn Eggenberger

    A good story of overcoming adversity and coming of age in the Rust belt.

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  • Harry Lockhart

    Vance provides a compelling look at his life that reflects the experiences of many of our fellow citizens. Between heartbreaking anecdotes and insights that can also bring a smile we get a glimpse of the edge that many are slipping toward and where to find rescue ; Within ourselves. Of all things it sheds a new light for me on the Jimmy Carter "malaise" speech - a message I resented greatly but now considering prescient.

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  • Amy O\'Connor

    Hated this book. I think it is ridiculous that we are supposed to listen to his story and feel sorry for him. His story of pulling his self up by the boot straps and making it in this world despite significant diversity is nothing new. The only thing that is new about this story is that there is a white guy now trying to claim he is as equal as any other person of color because him and his family were poor. Also, if people are trying to read this book in order to understand "Trump Voters" don't bother unless you want to be even more baffled by the people who voted for someone like Trump.

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  • Joan Levis

    As I listened to this book, I was thinking, now I need to read it. It has such broad implications for the issues which plague our society today. From psycho-social, political, educational, and the familial structure and its affect on our American culture. Taken in context, the book speaks to one group's crisis, yet it speaks to a much broader problem in our society today. I loved the way Vance interweaved statistics and studies into his narrative. Some of the narrative was a bit monotone, but otherwise I was mesmerized. Cheers to Vance overcoming the adversity, and also working on changing the behavior patterns he learned as a child. That takes a strong man, a strong wife, the will to do better, and patience.

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  • Jo Ann Sawyer

    Did not enjoy this book. Deadpan narration. You. Really wanted some more interesting information.

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  • Ed Minica

    Very smooth tone, great insight.

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  • Dean Cardenas

    Very interesting read and solid account of JD's life and how he overcomes adversity.

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  • Becky Faber

    Thank you JD for sharing your experiences. Here's to participating in the world and resisting retreat form it!

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  • David Stoddard

    Great book. A portrayal of an American culture experiencing social problems with no essy solution. This book reinforced my belief that the quality of family life can either make or break a society. American is not doing very well in that regard. This book supports the idea that our success in life is directly related to our family life and that generationally modeling continues from one generation to another.

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