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...