Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
J.D. Vance shares simultaneously both a memoir of his life and a sociological and cultural study of the white working class, specifically the hillbillies, or those in, or from, the Appalachian region. He begins with his grandparents and moves through the years, giving a detailed account of the culture that he was born and raised in. Although not all of the characteristics of his family can be attributed to hillbillies in general, Vance does do a good job of sharing his observations of the culture as a whole. A culture that he says has been slowly disintegrating, so much so that poverty is the norm. It is also a culture, that is so ingrained that even when upward mobility is achieved, the struggles of the culture follow. His grandparents moved from Kentucky to Ohio but the culture followed and so did the struggle. For example, at one point in the story he says his mom and her husband make a combined six figures but the struggle and conflict are still there.
One of Vance's conclusions is that hillbillies have acquired a learned helplessness; a sense of despair.
This and the overall account is a valuable insider perspective, one that everyone should read to understand how this huge portion of our society feels, and to understand that while the culture has many negatives, it also has many positives.
This is an often funny, often sad, but always moving look at a family and the larger culture they are a part of.
Narrative: Non-fiction books have different levels of the narrative aspect. Hillbilly Elegy is highly narrative and reads almost like a novel at times. So patrons who like highly narrative non-fiction may like a suggestion of Hillbilly Elegy.
Type: This is mostly a memoir but also a commentary on a culture and social class. It is not a task-based non-fiction book.
Subject: Working Class Whites from the Appalachian Region plus J.D. Vance's family story.
Appeal: Candid, Insightful, Engaging, Thought-Provoking
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