J.D. Vance, who is now a junior US senator for the state of Ohio, first published "Hillbilly Elegy" in 2016 but I have only got round to reading it this year. I guess that several literate Americans who visit this blog will have read the book long before Vance became a senator - just last year..
I found it eminently readable. It paints a picture of economic, social and cultural deprivation in Appalachian Kentucky and in the places in Ohio that attracted Kentucky job migrants towards the end of the last century. They brought Kentucky with them.
Vance's childhood was apparently a hard one to navigate and he may have got lost without the support of his maternal grandparents - always known affectionately as Mamaw and Papaw.
We see Vance beating the odds that were stacked against him. After high school he joined the US Marines before returning to tertiary education at Ohio State University. It was from there that he won a prestigious scholarship to Yale Law School. In spite of achieving his American dream, he never forgot where he had come from - the love and loyalty but also the drag anchors that still tend to pull down America's poor.
Politically, it's not clear to me why Vance was drawn to The Republican Party and why in particular an initial loathing of Donald Trump grew into unbridled support for that loathsome "fake" president. Given his background, I think it would have made better sense if Vance had been attracted to The Democrats. However, I should point out that there is little reference to his personal political journey in the book. Perhaps those aspirations were hatched after the book's first publication.
I remind myself that at 38 years old, J.D. Vance is only eleven days older than my son Ian and yet he often writes as though he has seen it all. In fact, the final draft was completed around the time of his 31st birthday.
"Hillbilly Elegy" is a mixture of memory and socio-political reflection Here's a taster from the text...
I'm one of those who read the book before Vance became involved in politics and I was appalled when he became a "born again Trumper". Some things just go beyond understanding.ReplyDelete
To me it is like he letting down the hill people of Kentucky.Delete
So Vance wrote a non fiction book, but now lives a fictionally delusional life.ReplyDelete
It could be. Those who supported Trump were surely not living in the real world - like the ragbag army he sent to The US Capitol.Delete
It was a very good book but like you, I couldn't figure out how he became a republican. His book did make me realize how much poverty affects generations.ReplyDelete
It reminded me that we all prisoners of the families into which we were born - sometimes going back through generations. We can never entirely break free.Delete
Also, things have been sorted out here. I'm sorry I burdened you with my worries.ReplyDelete
No problem. I wanted to respond but didn't have a way.Delete
I read Hillbilly Elegy. I was very disappointed as I didn't think he was very sincere in his story and since that time I suspect he used his story to gain favors instead of doing things to assist poor people. I don't think he know what social justice is. I was disappointed with this book.ReplyDelete
The book and film were stepping stones that lifted him into the US Senate even though that may not have been his initial plan.Delete
I have seen the film and wasn't at all impressed, perhaps I should have read the book instead. I deleted the movie from my hard drive as soon as it was over.ReplyDelete
I usually think book first and film second is the best combination.Delete
I haven't read it but I have read that many from that area didn't consider it an accurate portrayal of the Appalachians and the people; they found him condescending.ReplyDelete
In fact, it made Barbara Kingsolver, a native of that area, so upset that she wrote "Demon Copperhead."
Interesting. Thanks for that Margaret. The truth is hard to pin down.Delete
Seduced by the prospect of fame and riches? Strange how ideals and clear sight can go out of the window.ReplyDelete
When "Hillbilly Legacy" was published, Vance probably had no idea how popular it would be or how it would lift him into national politics.Delete
I saw the film and thought it was good although it depicts ugly truths. I only recently realised it was a book and I didn't know the author was now in politics. I'm a bit behind :)ReplyDelete
It would have been interesting to view the film without knowing that the book even existed.Delete
I watched the film after Debby recommended it. It's good.ReplyDelete
For the white poor of America and even more so the black poor who Vance never mentions, breaking the mould is a rarity.Delete
Thank you for the review. There are some really good examples of books out there where a personal biography or family history is seen in the wider political, social and cultural context of its time and place. I very much liked that about Michelle Obama‘s Becoming, for instance, and about Walter Kempowski‘s books.ReplyDelete
You remind me that I should read "Becoming" one day. Michelle Obama is an impressive, compassionate and dignified woman.Delete
Voters who vote against their best interest, but for ideals that they think are successful, when they themselves see themselves as failures or victims.ReplyDelete
I tried to read the book and it just did not appeal to me. Not sure why. I know a whole lot of people did like it. I haven't seen the movie, either. I cannot for the life of me understand why the author became a Republican and supported Trump.ReplyDelete
I’ve read both the book and seen the film. But I will never read another of his based off the 2020 election cycle and things he said.ReplyDelete
I read the book. When I read the book, I thought that perhaps what was needed was a new way to address the needs of the poor in America. He was very sensible, and his thoughts on cognitive dissonance really explained a lot of what I saw in the Trump supporters. Fast forward from the book to his campaign: I am just as mystified by his change to Trump Republican. That choice negated a great deal of what he said in his book. I am not interested in hearing one more thing from him.ReplyDelete
My book club read the book. I echo Ms. Moon: how in the world did someone who grew up in an environment like that because a Trumper? People are strange.ReplyDelete