Hillbilly Elegy

Updated: Feb 3, 2021


Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

1/25 | Started 01.03.21 • Finished 01.09.21 | 4 stars


This book was not like I thought it would be. It was heavy on social analysis and lighter on anecdotes. Thankfully, it does not detract from the read! Vance does a wonderful job weaving the two together, using stories to back up his research, and his research to prove his takeaways from various life episodes.


By the grace of God, I no longer hide from Mom. But I can't fix everything either. There is room now for both anger at Mom for the life she chooses and sympathy for the childhood she didn't. (238)

I appreciated his comments on a portion of the US population that I haven't spent much time thinking about: the white working-class. He spends a good amount of time talking about statistics and circumstances without getting bogged down in the numbers. And the facts he reveals can be quite startling. It's a subset of our demographics that comes with its own set of unique problems and in the end, Vance isn't sure that government intervention is the way to solve them. I think his conclusion is that if white Appalachia (or hillbillies as he calls them) would actually work hard like they claim to do and value and protect family in healthy ways that they could dig themselves out of these issues. Add to that a bit of luck and you've got a recipe for rising above and improving your base. I could be wrong, but that's my take.


If you're wondering whether or not the new Netflix movie does the book justice, I would say no. For one, it doesn't seem to follow quite the same timeline. I find that kind of thing annoying. Also, it isn't able to communicate all of the research and commentary that Vance provides in the book. To me, that diminishes the meaning and impact of all the stories.

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