Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
To say that I devoured this book would be an understatement. I have been wanting to read it for a while, and finally bought it earlier this week after reading even more great reviews about it online. I used to avoid nonfiction books like the plague, but lately I’ve really gotten into the genre (I read Into the Wild for the first time earlier this year and absolutely loved it).
This book was one that I just couldn’t put down. Vance mixes the perfect amount of personal experience with social commentary about the white working class in America and how it really feels to try to achieve the American Dream. I love that shows that it can be done, but he also sheds light on some major issues that are holding people like him (and let’s be honest, like me) back.
While I wouldn’t call my family “hillbillies” (we’re not quite that rough around the edges), there were definitely moments that I could relate to in his story. I will warn you that if you don’t like vulgar language, you might be put off by this book. Vance tells the story of his family as he remembers it from growing up the grandson of transplant hillbillies looking for a better life, and that comes with a lot of cursing and fighting. I didn’t really expect that kind of language when I picked up this book, but I understand why he included it. This is a memoir, after all, and he’s trying to paint a true picture of the lifestyle he grew up in.
Overall, this one gets 5 stars. I almost wish I could make it assigned reading for all of my Juniors when we study the American Dream. I think it’s an important book for young people to read, especially ones who want to blame all their failures on their circumstances and on other people (which is exactly the epidemic that Vance addresses in this book). This one is a must read, for sure.