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Narrator Rating (77)

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 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 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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  • Perry C

    Very well done Mr. Vance. Having had similar life experiences your narrative spoke to me. Excellent read!!!

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  • Samantha D

    Loved this book! Thank you J. D. Vance for being vulnerable and telling your story! It's not easy, but is an inspiration to someone like myself who also suffered many ACE's while growing up in a substance abuse home. Having to be the adult in many situations and often times no stable ground to stand on. I also couldn't have made it to who I am today without my grandmother. What an awesome thank you to her for her support. It's not easy to take the path less traveled, but you did it despite all of the road blocks. Congratulations!

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  • Sharon W

    It was a very interesting book particularly since I live in Kentucky now. The life perspective of the author was intriguing.

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  • Vivian Y

    Enjoyed the, my first time using an audiobook! I will be using it a lot! I am a slow reader so this helped me to get through the book. This dysfunctional family taught JD to rise above. He needed to understand that he was raised within this hillbilly family that could have made him into one of them, but his decision to go into the Marines helped him to adjust and learn a more universal way of thinking. He was then able to gather all of the things he learned from his family and all of the things he learned in the Marines to mold himself into a prestigious lawyer. Kudos to Vance for achieving and overcoming the inevitable of many who can't get out of this type of trap.

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  • melissa c

    A great listen while driving.

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  • Terry P

    Great book with a lot statistical analysis that really made you aware of how difficult beating the odds of poverty are. I had preconceived notions on how poverty affected people but this book expanded on them. Poverty does not discriminate and it clearly has long lasting effects even if you're one of the lucky ones that rise above. I will listen to it again in the future as a reminder.

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  • Eva S

    It took me a while to get used to the narration, I think it would have been a plus to have someone else narrate, pretty monotonous. I really got into the book as it progressed and it personally helped me understand the decisions and culture of people connected to me with similar backgrounds, that before seemed absolutely alien, highly dysfunctional and irrational.

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  • Harry Ric B

    Fascinating memoir on how one Rust Belt kid beat the odds and succeeds, and a social commentary on why the odds are stacked against white working-class kids in typically dysfunctional families. As one teacher is quoted, \"We are expected to be shepherds, yet the children we teach are often raised by wolves.\"

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  • Jase W

    Excellent book with good characters. Enjoyed the experience

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  • 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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