Hillbilly Elegy

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Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is the book that my book club decided to read this month. The wait list for this at the library was astronomical; I think I was number 456 for the book, and 594 for the audio version. The subtitle for this is “A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”. That should give you a hint that this is going to be about a life story, with a bit of the culture of that family tossed in. Nope.

There was passing mention of his family and life as a child/teen/young adult, but most of this was a socio-economic commentary on the state of what he called working-class whites. His writing primarily focuses on the steel mills, and those who worked there. Statistics abound in this book, there are several reference notes for each chapter.

This is not what I think of when I think of a memoir, I think of the stories that people tell when they go home for Christmas. Most of them start with “remember when”, or “tell me about the time”. There were a few of those in this book but not a lot and for myself I would rather have more of the story than of the basis of the facts.

One thing that made me angry about this book was when he partially blamed his grandfather’s alcoholism on his grandmother’s behavior. Could that have been a factor on why the man drank? Maybe, however, that is not always the case nor it is always a deciding factor.

If you are looking for facts on Hillbillies read this book; if you want to know about a young hillbilly’s life, look for another one.

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