Monday, 13 November 2017

"Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance

   This is a memoir of a man who identifies with the poor, working-class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degree, living in the Appalachian Mountains.
   J.D. Vance was able to graduate from Yale Law School, and he wrote this book because he feels that he has accomplished something not really extraordinary but quite ordinary.  It just doesn't happen to kids that grew up like him. This is how he grew up: "Seeing people insult, scream, and sometimes physically fight, was just a part of our life.  After a while, you didn't even notice it".
   So he wrote this book to explain the challenges he experienced. He loves his neighbours, family, and friends, but he needs to avoid some to keep his sanity.  Some are murderers, abusers, addicts, but he sees them as "a ragtag band of hillbillies struggling to find their way.
        Subtitle:  a memoir of a family and culture in crisis.
From Goodreads:
  "At times funny, disturbing, and deeply moving, this is a family history that is also a troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large portion of this country".
I was surprised to see that this book is number 6 on the New York Times bestsellers list.
But perhaps other readers chose it for the same reason that I did.  It really helped me understand the change in the political scene in the U.S.A.

The title is so appropriate.  "Elegy" is a poem of serious reflection, a lament. This book is serious and sad.  It shows the condition of the white working class in U.S.A. It is a memoir, but also a history of this culture as well as a social analysis. A lot to accomplish in one book.
Fascinating and sad.

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