Don’t Mess with Hillbillies & Other Things I Learned: J.D. Vance’s Hillybilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2017 Reading Book #43)

I don’t have much experience with the blue-collar hillbillies of America. While I do live in an area that is pretty blue-collar and very supportive of Trump, the culture of these people is largely a mystery to me. I came into this book really only knowing the stereotypes of these people and feeling like their problems really rested on their choices and was up to them to fix. I also felt that education was probably the answer to many of their problems.

And I was incredibly delighted to be wrong on so many counts.

This was a wonderful empathy read that was also extremely educational. The author mixes together personal experience and statisticsĀ that paint a really full picture of the life and struggles of this group of Americans. I was worried that this memoir would be an apologist to this people, but it felt very fair in how it recognized the failings and poor choices of these people with the larger scale issues that are beyond their control, such as job availability.

I think educators would find this especially interesting as it gives great insight into why children from this socio-economic class do not do well in school and often do not pursue college afterward. It makes a great case for the importance of childhood and a person’s home life and how it affects the rest of a person’s life and their ability to succeed. I think there’s also some great ideas in here for universities and how they can better help students who do go to college succeed both during the completion of their degree and in their life afterward.

Understanding these people and their struggles is really important as they supported Trump. The struggles explored and explained in this memoir do a great job of clarifying what led to these people to vote the way they did. Likewise, reading this book hopefully will help you lend some empathy to these people instead of tearing them apart for how they voted.

This novel is a great conversation starter. I talked about all the things I’d learned with my parents and encouraged them to read it too. A local book club recently read this book and I heard some of the members enthusing about it when they were over at our house. It’s an easy read that will appeal to a lot of people, and hopefully start up a lot of important conversations.


In Summary:

Title(s): Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Author(s): J.D. Vance

Overall Rating: 5/5

Genre: Memoir

Category: Nonfiction

Formate Accessed: eBook

Imprint: Harper

Publisher: HarperCollins

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