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Hillbilly Elegy:

A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

  • Read by: J. D. Vance
  • Runtime: 6.8 Hours
  • Recording: Unabridged
  • Release date: 6.28.2016
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Genre: Nonfiction/Social Science
  • 6.82 hrs6/28/2016Unabridged
  • ISBN-13: 9780062477521
0 reviews 0 5 4.6 4 out of 5 stars 4.6/5
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Rating Distribution

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#1 New York Times Bestseller

An Economist Best Book of 2016

Winner of Audible’s Best Audiobooks of 2016 Award for Nonfiction

A Publishers Weekly Bestseller

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, 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 forty 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 hopes 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, aunt, uncle, 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 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 this country.

Editorial Reviews

“Beautifully and powerfully written…Hillbilly Elegy is shocking, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and hysterically funny. It’s also a profoundly important book, one that opens a window on a part of America usually hidden from view and offers genuine hope in the form of hard-hitting honesty.”

Amy Chua, New York Times bestselling author

“A beautiful memoir but it is equally a work of cultural criticism about white working-class America…A riveting book.”

Wall Street Journal

“Essential reading for this moment in history.”

New York Times

“A harrowing portrait of much that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations…An honest look at the dysfunction that afflicts too many working-class Americans.”

National Review

“In this understated, engaging debut, the author reflects on his stormy journey from the coal-country Kentucky hollers of Appalachia to the declining Rust Belt to life among the Ivy League–educated elite…An unusually timely and deeply affecting view of a social class whose health and economic problems are making headlines in this election year.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this memoir is akin to investigative journalism…A quick and engaging read, this book is well suited to anyone interested in a study of modern America, as Vance’s assertions about Appalachia are far more reaching.”

Library Journal

“To understand the rage and disaffection of America’s working-class whites, look to Greater Appalachia. In Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance confronts us with the economic and spiritual travails of this forgotten corner of our country. Here we find women and men who dearly love their country, yet who feel powerless as their way of life is devastated. Never before have I read a memoir so powerful, and so necessary.”

Reihan Salam, executive editor, National Review

Author Biography

J. D. Vance is a former Marine and a graduate of Yale Law School. He is a regular contributor to the National Review. He lives in Washington, DC.

Reader Biography

J. D. Vance is a former Marine and a graduate of Yale Law School. He is a regular contributor to the National Review. He lives in Washington, DC.

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