Hillbilly Elegy - J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy

By J. D. Vance

  • Release Date: 2016-06-28
  • Genre: Sociology
Score: 4.5
From 1,267 Ratings



"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.


  • A good start to addressing a delicate subject

    By frostitude
    This book took a very different angle than what I was expecting. However, it just scratches the surface. And now we live in a climate where being informed, being educated, is considered elitist. So unfortunately the very subset of the population that needs to hear this most probably never will.
  • Hillbilly Elergy

    By Ms. Hush Puppy
    An excellent 'participant-observer' ethnology of an American experience. A true and honest analysis of a part of the US cultural by-passed by so many, yet truly American. Clearly written, clearly analyzed, clearly argued.
  • "Hillbilly Stock"

    By Dr. Tackett
    I come from Hillbilly stock! This is the best, most honest book I have read about the problems my kin had, have and why. For decades I never wanted to admit this fact. I would say "my father's family came from Robertson County Kentucky before they moved to Ohio." This book has enabled me to admit to the fact that most of my dad's relatives (Tackett's) come from the mountains of eastern Kentucky. They made the migration to New Richmond, Ohio in the 1910's to find work. Then Dad moved to Dayton, Ohio in the 1950's joining his mom, stepdad and nearly half of his seven siblings to find work at a cement plant in Fairborn, Ohio. A loving grandmother (dad's mom), caring step-grandfather (her second husband), great high school (Stebbins High School in Dayton) and a baptist pastor (Rev. Payne) originally from eastern Kentucky saved me from a life of destruction. I was the first in my family to graduate from college, get a master's degree (2 actually) and a doctorate in clinical psychology. I have been in practice in Louisville, Kentucky occasionally helping mountain people who moved to the big city learn how to build a meaningful life in Louisville. I would recommend this book to anyone who comes from a troubled family and that is most of us!
  • Great book!

    By Lamplovin
    Intimate, encapsulating, and overall entertaining to read
  • Hillbilly Elegy

    By Boulder Reader
    I am starting to understand how Trump won. I learned a little about a part of my country that is as foreign to me as a deep African civilization. This is a great view into another world. Read it soon!
  • Hillbilly Elegy

    By dkvsm
    This is one of the finest books I have read this year. It opened windows to people I have known in the Southern Appalachian area of North Carolina. They have changed over the following fifty-plus years we have lived with them. Higher education is not a goal. They live in the home of their parents and their parents' parents. I was consumed and am grateful for the experience of "living" with them for this read.
  • Part essay, part memoir- enlightening

    By Baddrawer1963
    Vance takes a microscope to his own life and also shines a light on his early environment as he tries to muddle through the conflicting truths of how hillbilly culture migrated into 21st Century conservatism and political policy. I leave the book grateful for the insights and more than a little bit embarrassed by how much of his childhood is like mine (and my kids') because of bad emotional behavior, and despite advantages of education and financial stability. Interesting. I wish we'd heard more about the impacts of programs on his family, friends and town. When he cites research or others' writing it is engaging. Very informative book. One that is unique!
  • Hillbilly Elegy

    By Brevier
    J.D. Vance has taught me about my own biases and my dismissive attitude towards those I have been carefully taught "come from nothing" A brilliant book that makes me re-think my knee-jerk liberal attitudes. Thank you.
  • Hits home

    By HawkinsTD
    This book hits home in so many uncomfortably honest ways! A must-read.
  • Family struggles

    By KMM53
    Somewhat interesting story about a family and child struggling to overcome life's adversities. It made me think about my own family and made me thankful it was not as bad as this story but like many of us we can relate. Some better some worse.