Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy - (book)

This book was written before Trump's election and was on the NY Times best seller list for quite awhile.  It was said by many to be a good book to read to understand part of the political scene in the U.S. 

I read the book awhile ago and seem to have a hard time reviewing it.  The author himself had conflicts, disliking his "hillbilly" upbringing, which he seemingly left behind, but loving his family who's faults he lays out pretty clearly.

Hillbilly Elegy
J.D. Vance

Here's what Wikipedia says about the book -

The book reached the top of The New York Times Best Seller list in August 2016[3] and January 2017.[4] Journalists wrote that the book was of specific importance during the 2016 United States presidential elections, as Vance compassionately describes the white underclass that fueled the campaign of Donald Trump and a resurgence of outsider politics.[1] The New York Times wrote that his direct confrontation on a social taboo is admirable regardless of whether the reader agrees with his conclusions. The newspaper writes that Vance's subject is despair and his argument is more generous in that it blames fatalism and learned helplessness rather than indolence.[1] John Podhoretz described the book as among the year's most provocative.[5]

You can find a long and informative review from the NY Times here-

I'm hoping someone has read the book and will comment on it.


  1. I've never even heard of this book, but it sounds interesting and might explain how Trump got into office. After reading about Vance in the New Yorker, I came to the conclusion that he felt like he didn't belong anywhere, feeling more like an outsider, no matter where he is.

  2. I haven't heard of it either. I'm aware of the "indolence" prejudice and never bought that explanation, so I'm predisposed to like his perspective. I keep hearing that Democrats have abandoned these "kinds" of populations, but our politics on both sides is dependent on big money. I wish I knew what to do to get that fixed. It won't happen under Trump*. Conversations I have on FB end up with the conservatives stomping off in a huff, so talking about these issues is difficult :(

  3. I have read the book, much of which takes place in Ohio and except for the domestic violence that Vance describes in his family, he could have been writing a history of my father's family (which comes out of Kentucky). It is superb reading.

    Someone raised the issue with me that the "underclass" (not the phrase used) had nothing but disdain and disgust for the professionals (doctors, lawyers) and that is why they voted for Trump--because he was a businessman and therefore "self made." I responded (because I grew up working class poor/blue collar working class) that most of the people I knew did not disdain professionals, but those jobs and lifestyles were so far removed from our everyday life (mine as a child) that you might as well have said "yes, and you can go to the moon too."

    I agree with the comment that Vance feels like an outsider--he doesn't fit in anymore in his roots and he doesn't fit in (or doesn't feel he fits in) with his colleagues because he is "other." I totally get that.