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Publisher's Summary

J. D. Vance grew up in the hills of Kentucky. His family and friends were the people most of the world calls rednecks, hillbillies or white trash. In this deeply moving memoir, Vance tells the story of his family’s demons and of America’s problem with generational neglect. 

How his mother struggled against, but never fully escaped, the legacies of abuse, alcoholism, poverty and trauma. How his grandparents, ‘dirt poor and in love’, gave everything for their children to chase the American dream. How Vance beat the odds to graduate from Yale Law School. And how America came to abandon and then condescend to its white working classes, until they reached breaking point.   

Artwork used with permission from Netflix, Inc.  

©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 listeners say about Hillbilly Elegy

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Overrated

I didnt get what all the hype was about in the reviews. I found it hard to get into, slow and dry in parts with too much theoretical commentary which I found over simplified things and exaggerated the plight of his people over other groups. I found him to be arrogant at times,stating hillbillies were the toughest people in the world (as if no other group of people has comparable resilience) and America is by far the greatest country... Genuine academics dont talk like that in blanket unmeasured statements so the theoretical social commentary didnt hold value for me. His life stories were interesting and that was what helped me to persevere except the narration was a bit monotone. Overall It was an average listen that has some value in proving insight into working class white America & is engaging in parts but I wouldnt put it in the same category as books like ' Educated'.

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Thank you for the healing!

Amazing to hear the perspective from another person from a similar socioeconomic rung in childhood. Our experiences may differ, however our struggles are the same. Thank you JD!

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A deep dive into rural poverty in America

J.D. Vance has written a strong very personal memoir about growing up a hillbilly refugee travelling from darkest Kentucky to the more urban badlands on Ohio. We meet his hotch potch family from a loving & terrifying Grandma, his sister & brother to his drug scarred mother and an array of aunts and uncles and grifting men who move in with mom. He kicks down the doors to the middle class and beyond - graduating in law at Yale and joining a prestigious law firm. He marries and, apart from episodic battles with sine ingrained demons, succeeds in breaking with the desperate Appalachian poverty. While there are deep contradictions in J.D.’s politics, the insights into how his people end up where they do are brilliantly sharp and clear eyed. It’s a must read.

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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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  • 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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • NIVEDH SHETTY
  • 26-07-2019

Honest and thought-provoking

The best feature of the book is the author's honesty in sharing his stories. While the conclusions drawn in the book are debatable, the nature of the arguments are intelligent and well-thought of, and can help drive a good conversation on what upward mobility means to those in the working class.

1 person found this 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 person found this helpful

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  • Jon
  • 19-07-2020

Engaging story with surprisingly excellent narrati

I have listened to a number of books narrated by the author, and this has perhaps the best narration of any of them. Typically, I feel like the benefits of listening to the author tell their own story more than offset their lack of polish as a narrator - but in this case there is no tradeoff, Vance is a clear spoken and engaging narrator in his own right.

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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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  • 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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  • Frank N
  • 22-01-2018

hilarious

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

1 person found this helpful

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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!

23 people found this helpful

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  • ADRIAN O
  • 03-02-2019

Good book, OK performance

The book is good, not great. J.D.'s reading of it is OK, not good. He is a touch on the monotone side, reads too fast, and takes too few pauses. The overall effect is that he's reading words with little feeling, just trying to rush through it as quickly as possible. By the end I was used to his voice and it didn't bother me too much, but it took half the book before I felt comfortable -- it was hard work concentrating just to keep up with the rush of monotonous words. The 'story' is good, and reveals a lot about his life and where he came from. I recognise flashes of his upbringing in my own life, there's some universal truths about certain backgrounds I guess that work across continents and cultures. What made this book disappointing was the rave reviews it got last year. It was good, but I think I hoped for more. The next book I listened to after this was Kevin Hart's 'I Can't Make This Up' and the contrast was amazing. It's a very different book, but his childhood wasn't that different to J.D. Vance's. They had similar problems, similar attitudes, similar expectations of life and similar beliefs. Kevin's telling of that period is so rich, and so well delivered, and it made me appreciate it all the more after just reading this book. I wish this book had been more like that.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Sandy
  • 13-01-2019

Profoundly moving.

Though from England, I recognise so much of this book in my home town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. It's a universal story of poverty and communities in crisis.

7 people found this 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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • MR S A MCLAUGHLAN
  • 30-10-2020

A story of survival and the power of acceptance

I read the book after talking to a colleague about childhood trauma. I’m always amazed at the universality of the theme of forgiveness sets us free. A very clear, concise description of experience, strength and hope in a young man. I come from Glasgow and in some way I suppose I’m a Scots relative of this hillybilly boy - Just the other side of the water, but I understood every word and they resonated. I can’t help feeling the twelve step programs that he must have been exposed to as a child did in some way seep into his ongoing recovery from ACE. Thank you. Great listen. Somewhat similar to Angela’s Ashes only I feel with a much more contemplative and well educated hero who understands very well the demons of his culture. Well worth a read.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Qwerty Booster
  • 09-12-2019

Vigilantism

The writer seems determined to titillate with tales of how his family believed in taking "justice" into their own hasty hands. I am swiftly returning this audiobook.

3 people found this 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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Richard Mayne
  • 20-05-2020

Really enjoyed this

I enjoyed JDs recounting of his lifes journey thus far. The lessons are a lot more universal that he may recognise.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kristin
  • 28-04-2020

best nonfiction book I've read

the reality of it was just the spice this book needed. important read for everyone who wants to understand America and, to be honest, the world's almost poor.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-04-2019

Explained a lot about the rust belt in America.

No problem getting this book read...was facinated from beginning to the end. Explains life for the struggling middle white Americans through a very understable journey. JDVance carries us through each element of Hillbilly life from a micro and macro perspective. Read this and you will understand why the all American dream isnt available to everyone.

2 people found this helpful

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