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Publisher's Summary

From a former marine and Yale graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broad, probing look at the struggles of America's white working class.

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis - that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over 40 years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.'s grandparents were "dirt poor and in love" and moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in the hope of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance's grandparents, his aunt, his uncle, his sister, and most of all his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humour and vividly colourful 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.

©2016 J. D. Vance (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"The memoir gripping America.... Vividly articulates the despair and disillusionment of blue-collar America." ( Sunday Times)
"Vance's description of the culture he grew up in is essential reading for this moment in history." (David Brooks, New York Times)
"A beautiful memoir but it is equally a work of cultural criticism about white working-class America.... [Vance] offers a compelling explanation for why it's so hard for someone who grew up the way he did to make it...a riveting book." ( Wall Street Journal)
"Quietly thoughtful, poignant...while the political timeliness of Hillbilly Elegy is undeniable, Vance truly shines when he takes us with him 'down the holler' into an America we thought we knew - until we realized how little of it we truly understood." ( Huffington Post)
"Looking back on his youth, and all he fled, yields a frank, unsentimental, harrowing memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. It's a superb book given an extra layer of importance by its political reverberations: When Vance returns home these days, he sees yard after yard festooned with Trump signs." ( NY Post)
"You will not read a more important book about America this year." ( Economist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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An excellent read

For a young man you did extremely well JD Vance. I'm in my 70's and can relate to your memoirs. Your narration is excellent. There is a lot to learn from your story and the way you value the role of each individual who make up that story. Thank you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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window view

I enjoyed this book. It was an interesting and in ways quite a disturbing read about the inequality endured on a daily basis.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing story about overcoming the odds

Really enjoyed this unique and personal account of a much wider problem in American society. I could relate to JD Vance's story in many ways, despite being a non-American. The audiobook was read very well by the author.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A book well worth the read

There appears to be such honesty in this frank account of this young mans life. His clever analysis is made all the more impactful because it is his life, his family and his tribe.

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Who knew?

Like most people my knowledge of Hillbillies was based on stereotypes with little understanding of this community.
I was fascinated and totally absorbed by the journey of J.D. Vance as it also applied to disadvantaged communities everywhere. I had new insights insight and so appreciated the honest and not self pitying tone of the author.

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Interesting Biography account of early life includes subjective analysis of 'Hillbilly Culture'

This account is interesting insight into the difficulties faced by children growing up in dysfunctional families from a disenfranchised class called Hillbilly's in USA . The author narrates his story in an accessible way.
There is plenty to discuss and the authors theories provide insights into how he managed to move upward and out of the class with education and the support.

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Thought provoking book

I listened to this book after a friend suggested it. She said it gave insights into the poor who supported Trump. It did provide a confronting window into the lives of the rustbelt poor in America. It also depicted a family in crisis and the poor stock of skills many people have to deal with the situations facing them. Of course many of the problems are found here in Australia too. Some of my extended family post Pauline Hanson opinions on Facebook that would fit seamlessly into hillbilly culture. J D Vance gives an honest account of a difficult life, his subsequent successes and ackowledges those who helped him out of the mire. I recommend it as a great read.

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Amazing!

Enjoyable, eye opening and relevant. This could so easily describe many different communities around the world.

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Puts it all in perspective

Have not read a better book in years. Not bittersweet, just raw truth. Thank you Mr Vance

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  • Robert
  • Neutral Bay, Australia
  • 24-09-2017

Excellent. Insightful and informative.

JD Vance has written a work that allows a view of a social group from the eyes of an insider, at the same time allowing the reader to share in his personal growth. I am an Australian and I can relate his views, of the challenges faced by those excluded, to several groups of our own society; one supposedly more inclusive than that of 'the greatest nation on Earth's. Thank you for your story and insights. I feel a better and more informed member of society for the knowledge.

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  • frank
  • 22-01-2018

hilarious

hilarious but original. an ordinary story that everyone can relate to. I so recommend this book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Greg D. Joffe
  • 14-10-2017

Fabulous mix of autobiography and social analysis read by the author

I always enjoy autobiographies read by the author and this was an exceptionally good one. Amazing life story surviving incredible poverty and family challenges but also some robust thinking and analysis about what makes a difference and how things work.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Pieter Reyneke
  • 21-06-2017

Wonderful book.

This book gave me a better understanding and I g of my own life and failures. It is more a self help kind of book as one of literary significance. Well written and it answers so many of the questions to socio-economic problems we are trying to solve.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-06-2017

Great book, insightful and well written.

an inspiring story, personal and honest. Lessons we all can learn from and be inspired by.

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  • Nyaribo
  • 01-06-2017

The strangely familiar reality of the American dream

If your like me and your searching for answers about today's world and how to succeed , then J.D Vance takes you closer to the door step of your enlightenment and freedom.

The book is a memoir of an American white man that is rarely shared that transcends race and unites the poor/working class and their struggle for upward social mobility that is strangely familiar.

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  • Miss
  • 15-11-2016

SUPERB, insightful and addictive - a must listen

In the wake of this new Brexit and Trump reality, I've been looking for books, documentaries and articles to try and understand more about all the viewpoints and reasons for voting either way, regardless of which side of the fence I personally fall - my overwhelming sense is one of a deep lack of communication and consideration between any one part of society and the others.

This audiobook delivers insight and sensitivity in SPADES and I'm so glad I listened. The story of JD Vance's upbringing, childhood community and transition into adulthood is generously and unflinchingly told, and interwoven with just enough detail on the wider political and socioeconomic history of "rust belt" America. The overall impression is of an almost dynastic family saga all the more affecting for being true - I think Anne Tyler must have a long lost nephew from Kentucky, if I were JD Vance I'd be demanding a DNA test!

Most of all, it's a really compelling listen and I wasn't expecting to enjoy it so thoroughly as I did! Top quality both in the writing and the narration. It can be touch and go when authors narrate their own audio, but Vance does an exceptional job.

A very timely book which deserves all its accolades. Don't hesitate!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Cronin
  • 17-02-2017

An important story

Schools, social workers, courts, medical professionals, employers - all have a responsibility to our children and their families in distress; but as JD says, it's the parents of these children that bear the biggest responsibility. When those parents falter, we have to be there.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Albie
  • 05-10-2016

Inspiring fascinating story

What did you like most about Hillbilly Elegy?

The candid writing style and level of detail about the main and auxillary characters. As well as it's ability to act as a window into a type of life which seems very alien from those you often meet.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Hillbilly Elegy?

Any of the stories which involved Mamal. Sounded like an amazing woman.

Any additional comments?

Absolutely recommend for those who are interested in the social changes our societies are going through as well as the challenges public policy makers have for the future.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Andreea
  • 05-05-2018

Fantastic mix of memoir and insight

This book has perfectly balanced the personal story with all of its sometimes unbearable details and insightful self and surrounding society analysis!

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  • Amazon Kunde
  • 28-03-2018

So much more than just an autobiography

Absolutely love this interesting and inspiring book that comes with some value lessons. Great listen that is read by the author himself.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-01-2018

Timely insight

A fantastic listen. The narrator was easy to listen to and engaging. An absorbing personal story of family and survival that also gives a penetrating analysis of a major American sub-culture. Vance never mentions Trump but his book helped me understand how he got elected.

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  • Tommy
  • 30-10-2017

Disarmingly Honest, Compelling

Vance's disarmingly honest account of his troubled upbringing and his reflections on family and social dysfunction is both uplifting and thoroughly compelling.

An excellent companion piece to Thomas Sowell's equally good "Black Rednecks and White Liberals".

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  • Suswati
  • 22-10-2017

An untold story of working class poverty in the US

J. D. Vance's homage to his poverty-stricken, working class roots in America is essential reading for those attempting to understand how a person like Trump can end up in power.

Without attributing the 2016 election results to Vance and his family himself, the author paints a picture of a total disconnect between establishments and white working class voters. From education, to opportunities in climbing the social ladder, Vance can be seen as an exception due to the lack of outreach from these institutions.

His story can appear both depressing and uplifting at the same time. From experiencing trauma through a broken home, poverty, and an abusive addict mother, to having supportive grandparents who are able to push him into believing in himself. Vance breaks the mould eventually studying at Yale and becoming a venture capitalist. But his doubts in himself are ever present.

Vance, however, also blames 'hillbilly' culture and it's encouragement of social rot. Likewise, he recounts stories about lack of work ethic, and the notion of blaming others for their own misfortune. It highlights the need for stability in families in order for upward mobility.

It is a raw, emotional portrait of growing up in and eventually out of a poor rural community riddled by drug addiction and volatility.

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  • Geri Bruce
  • 15-10-2017

Excellent

Gives a brilliant first hand account of the effect of social policy on the lives of many Americans. Genuine and well written.

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  • Ms
  • 29-09-2017

Excruciatingly honest but we'll worth listening to

I really enjoyed listening to this book which was recommended by a work colleague. At times it felt almost voyeuristic but I really felt that it gave me a glimpse into the lives and a small understanding of a group of people who have felt like a complete mystery. A couple of chapters towards the end of the book felt a bit self indulgent but that is a minor criticism. Overall it is informative and entertaining, in an uncomfortable way.