Monday, February 20, 2017

Review of Hillbilly Elegy

Written by a Yale Law alumnus and self-described conservative hillbilly, J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy:A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2016) is so absorbing in no small part because it should confound conservatives and liberals alike. It's a memoir about class difference.

What might annoy conservatives: he thinks the idea of blaming Barack Obama or the government in general for the plight of the white working class is ridiculous, and policies (Trump is not mentioned but is clearly relevant here) of blame are based on false premises. Plus, acceptance of diversity is healthy.

What might annoy liberals: he believes the key problem for the white working class is actually working hard rather than refusing hard work. Patriotism, pride, faith, and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps (such as through the U.S. military) are real and they should be celebrated as solutions. Stable marriages should be prioritized.

Vance grew up poor in Appalachia, raised largely by his grandparents because his mother was (is) a drug addict. His grandmother, who was mean as a snake and swore constantly, was his savior (she is clearly the hero of this story). He struggled mightily through life, but ultimately went into the Marines (which for him was transformational), Ohio State (a double major in two years!) and Yale Law School. Impressive by any standard.

But he still feels the culture he grew up in. Toward the end he thinks about how lucky he was and how to help others do the same. Public policy, he feels, can help, but only so much. Hillbillies need to help each other, create their own support systems, and learn to feel empowered. That goes beyond any political party or slogan. Heartfelt, provocative, and worthy of discussion.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP