Hillbilly Elegy (mini-review)

Finished Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. 

Hillbilly Elegy is a sort of class discussion. JD Vance grew up in the Appalachians, with a large extended family of hillbillies. His family dealt with poverty, drug addiction, fractured relationships and a sense of no future. He managed to break the chain in his own life but others weren’t so lucky. 

This is a hard book for me to parse. I’m not sure how much of my reaction to some of his family is justifiable and how much may be latent snobbery. I don’t think a college degree makes someone better than anyone without it but I’m also not sure I believe that he genuinely didn’t know you should dress up for a job interview. (Also, his grandmother set his grandfather on fire after a fight. And she was one of the best people in this book.)

Also, I don’t think anyone from my high school went to Ivy League schools either and that’s not class warfare. It’s because they are really hard to get into. My hometown also suffers from the “brain drain” (people with college degrees typically leave; people without tend to stay) and a recent article estimated about a quarter of my hometown has more than a high school education. Jobs there are low-paying. And, of course, heroin has hit there like it has everywhere. Obviously people there are still not Appalachian-level poor but still. 

This is still interesting but I think I may do better with the other famous book on class in the US (White Trash). 


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