Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I grew up in southern Ohio. During my late teens I worked with dozens of hillbillies, people who had migrated north to find jobs. I was never one of them, and I was too clueless to understand their culture. It was a couple of decades before I began to understand the critical importance of culture.
I recently moved to Western North Carolina. There are hillbillies around every turn in the road. And, if you have visited or lived in this area, you know that there are a lot of turns. Mountains, valleys, and turns in the road.
Vance writes about hillbillies. What is like to be a hillbilly. What is is like to grow up in a hillbilly culture. It is important to understand this culture. It is largely disaffected from the American Dream. For them, the game is rigged against them. Thus, there is no point in fighting; one can only lose.
But Vance is also a wonderful writer. Every once in a while he will quote some statistics and argue slightly abstract details of policy. The rest of the time he writes about a life that teeters on the edge. That alone makes it worth the time to read.