Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance is a nonfiction piece that is very pertinent for today’s troubled world. This is a man who escaped extreme poverty and a very closed world, and yet his reflections are poignant and striking. They give a picture of a segment of America that most of us cannot fathom. But it’s there and factors into today’s political landscape, today’s economic realities, and is a world that we need to acknowledge and consider as we move forward with health care, budgets, etc.
You will like J.D. and can picture him as a young boy – lots of energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence. His naïve charm will conquer a lot. And the key – he had a grandmother and grandfather who had faith in him, who supported him, and knew it was best that he leave their world in rural Kentucky. They knew to build his world and push him to better. No matter what – he lives in California now – a successful financial dude. Yet, his roots are in Kentucky and Ohio and it keeps him humble.
From the cover blurb – A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of the country.
p. 213 The rest of the evening was uneventful. I chatted politely and remembered admonitions to chew with my mouth closed. (a recruiter meal – clothes, chat, etc. all meant a lot and he was in a different world. He did get the job offer)
p. 221 Social capital is all around us. Those who capture into it and use it to prosper. Those who don’t are running life’s race with a major handicap. This is a serious problem for kids like me. Here’s a partial list of things I did not know but learned. 1. Wear a suit to a job interview. 2. Butter knives are to be used for a reason 3. Shoes and belt should match 4. Certain cities and states had better job prospects. 5. Going to a better college brought benefits outside of bragging rights (He made it into Yale!). I was remarkably ignorant of how to get ahead.
I recommend Hillbilly Elegy to broaden your horizons on social issues. It’s serious and yet well written with a light touch. You will chuckle at parts and cringe at others, feel sad, and question hope.