Hillbilly Elegy: a Review

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis is a memoir written by self-proclaimed hillbilly and venture capitalist, J.D. Vance. It’s a story of his life growing up in poverty in Ohio and Kentucky, and how one man was able to beat the odds with the help of his grandmother, Mamaw.

It’s a very informative book with a ton of insight into Appalachia and Appalachian culture, which is rarely represented in movies, tv shows, or books. 20% of residents in Appalachia live in poverty, compared to the 15.6% nationwide. I think that, had I read this book prior to the Trump election, I probably would have loved it. After the Trump presidency though, it feels like another think piece, albeit a long one, on how ignoring blue collar workers in this country has gotten us to the mess that we are in. Intellectually, I can see that, I can; but reading this often made me very angry, knowing that a large portion of my family are not, in fact, blue collar workers and still voted for Trump. That despite all the claims, really it was wealthy white voters that propelled Trump to the White House. It was interesting reading how many of his family members were dyed in the wool democrats, until recently.

It was a heartfelt story about how love and perseverance got Vance through his treacherous years living with his mother as a child, and all the horrors of addiction Appalachians, as well as many other regions, face, but in the end I just came away somewhat angry. I don’t even know if it was anger at these regions, that I know voted so overwhelmingly for Trump, and ultimately against their own best interests, or if I was just mad at the way the entire system is setup to benefit the wealthy and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is just a pipe dream. Either way, I was pretty angry throughout the whole book. It was a righteous anger at so many different things and for that, I can’t help but suggest you read this book and expect not to love it, but learn from it.