"Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance

| 📖 # 59 |


Title: Hillbilly Elegy
Author: J.D. Vance
Start Date: 2/24/17
End Date: 2/26/17
# of Pages: 272
Edition: Harper Reprint hardcover (2016)
ISBN: 9780062300546
Purchase: Amazon

Quick Take: eye opening

Why I Chose It: I had heard of this book from several different sources, and it promised to help interpret some of the misunderstood environment which impacted 2016.

Quotes: (1) "As Mamaw used to say, you can take the boy out of Kentucky, but you can't take Kentucky out the boy." (2) "...the American Dream required forward momentum. Manual labor was honorable work, but it was their generation's work - we had to do something different. To move up was to move on. That required going to college." (3) "In other words, despite all of the environmental pressures from my neighborhood and community, I received a different message at home. And that just might have saved me." (4) "I don't believe in transformative moments, as transformation is harder than a moment." (5) "Though we sing the praises of social mobility, it has its downsides. The term necessarily implies a sort of movement - to a theoretically better life, yes, but also away from something. And you can't always control the parts of your old life from which you drift." (6) "Whether I made it isn't the point. What mattered was that, with a professor's help, I had closed the information gap. It was like I'd learned to see." (7) "But social capital is all around us. Those who tap into it and use it prosper. Those who don't are running life's race with a major handicap. This is a serious problem for kids like me." (8) "Public policy can help, but there is no government which can fix these problems for us."

Other Notes: Wow. I closed the book with an overwhelming sense of having consumed an important, sobering, honest story. You can do worse when finishing a book. It is heartbreaking to be informed of the poverty and relatively hopeless perspective of so many people in your country, especially when they don't seem to be understood or even properly described in the popular cultural awareness. It is a very personal story, but one that is clearly communicated, drawing strong conclusions and serving as a representation of many other untold stories. A surprising and useful mini-narrative occurs in Chapter 13 as Vance is breaking into another world and shares his observations of how to succeed. This is a story which should inspire compassion and further the good work of placing humanity in front of our unconcerned assumptions.

BooksKarl Magnuson