Monday, October 15, 2018

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Author: J.D. Vance

Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: June 28, 2016

Length: 272 Pages

About the Author
J.D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and is a principal at a leading Silicon Valley Investment firm.

White, Working and Poor in America
J.D.'s grandparents moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in hopes of escaping the devastating poverty around them. His family struggled to adjust to their new middle-class status. His mother was never able to escape the legacy of abuse, addiction, poverty and trauma that was so characteristic of her childhood years in Appalachia. Mr. Vance lived a very chaotic childhood and was passed around to numerous family members while his mother struggled with drug addiction and moved different men in and out of her home.

J.D. decided to join the Marines when he graduated from high school. When he left the Marines, he used his military education benefits to attend Ohio State University. He eventually graduated from Yale Law School and learned that social mobility involves much more than acquiring money.

“social mobility isn’t just about money and economics, it’s about a lifestyle change. The wealthy and the powerful aren’t just wealthy and powerful; they follow a different set of norms and mores. When you go from working-class to professional-class, almost everything about your old life becomes unfashionable at best or unhealthy at worst.” 
My Thoughts
I chose this book because it was on the Bill Gates book list for 2017

I was extremely touched by the childhood experiences that are described in this book. Mr. Vance is truly a survivor and overcomer. He credits his grandparents, sister and other family members for being there for him when his mother was unable or unwilling to take care of him.

“For kids like me, the part of the brain that deals with stress and conflict is always activated...We are constantly ready to fight or flee, because there is a constant exposure to the bear, whether that bear is an alcoholic dad or an unhinged mom....I see conflict and I run away or prepare for battle.”
The author believes his years in the U.S. Marine Corp gave him the confidence and skills he needed to overcome his chaotic childhood and set realistic goals for the future. 

Mr. Vance met his future wife at Yale and she became an excellent mentor and friend during his years in law school. He is now a practicing attorney and appears to have a very bright future indeed. However, sometimes things are not as they seem to outsiders. 

“That is the real story of my lift, and that is why I wrote this book. I want people to know what it feels like to nearly give up on yourself and why you might do it. I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact that spiritual and material poverty has on their children. I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it. I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels. And I want people to understand something I learned only recently: that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us.”
This book is informative and inspiring. I am sure that many have walked a similar path as described in this book. The author was able to eloquently express the emotions and vulnerability that he feels as a result of his childhood experiences.

Dr. Phil frequently says, "There's an old saying in Texas: You gotta rise above your raisin'." 
This book shows you how.


FYI - I borrowed this book from my public library.

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