Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance


I spent January 20, aka Inauguration Day, reading this book in hopes it would help me understand how the United States got here. I don’t get into politics really at all on this blog but I’m not ashamed of my views. I am terrified of this administration and I’m already appalled at their actions. During the campaign, I thought that there was no way that Donald Trump would get elected, so I was in shock when he did. I want to try and understand the people who voted for him, the biggest group is the white lower to middle class, which is what this book said it would explore.

I commend Vance’s storytelling, he introduces us to his family and the larger than life character of his maternal grandmother. I enjoyed reading about his childhood and understanding how he got to where he is today. J.D. has graduated from Yale Law School and is a successful lawyer and now author. He lives with his wife in San Francisco. Vance is from Middletown Ohio which is not very far from where I grew up in Cincinnati. He talks about poverty, domestic abuse, drug abuse and alcoholism. He attempts to weave in some social science studies here and there but I don’t think it was frequent enough to achieve what he wanted.

At the book’s core, Vance seemed to preach that he came from poverty but he made it, so everyone else can too. I agree that he overcame so much; poverty, absent father, drug addict mother, poor school system etc. but he also had privileges that he doesn’t acknowledge. He had some great family members who supported him and took him in at important moments in his life. Vance often references “welfare queens” but never explains his judgments.

I liked exploring Vance’s story and I commend him for all that he has overcome but I didn’t think his social commentary had enough facts to back him up and I disagreed with his judgments.



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