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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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  • 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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  • Lauvenia Maggard

    I found the story and the characters both loving and neurotic! Vance did a beautiful job of storytelling current political events, and narration.

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  • george Flint

    I honestly don\'t remember why I ordered this book, but, as a retire history teacher, I couldn\'t have been more pleasantly surprised.

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  • Amanda Lang

    Not much meat in this story.... I didn't find it his story telling interesting

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  • Debra Feller

    I come from the same Hillbilly background. My grandparents home was just one county to the east of Jackson; JD Vance\'s story spoke to me. Although I was one of the lucky kids because my mom escaped the poverty at age 16 and married into a upper-middle class family from \"Kendal-tucky\" Indiana. The 11 siblings and their children left behind in KY did not. Poverty, alcohol, substance abuse and sorrow is a cloud over my Mother\'s side of the family. I have vivid memories of Prater Holler. We traveled the Hillbilly highway every other weekend in the summer. I was 10 years old when my grandparents built a bathroom with running water and a toilet. I tell people that the poverty and welfare state was such and institution in the coal country during the 1970\'s that I was 12 years old when I learned that Food stamps were not Kentucky\'s \"state money\". JD\'s insight into the root causes of the white working class problems and their mindset is spot on. I found myself agreeing out loud with him throughout the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who comes from our background. It will make you feel less like an outsider.

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  • Heily M

    A bit slow...the content was not very interesting to me:(

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  • Malinda Moore

    I loved hearing JD Vance's voice narrating his insightful book with the same objective clarity with which he wrote Hillbilly Elegy.

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