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Book Reviews

08. March 2017

Features, Reviews,


Hillbilly Elegy

J.D. Vance

Harper, 2016, 272 pp., $27.99

Reviewed by Pastor Kyle Borg.

What does a Yale-educated lawyer in San Francisco have in common with a hillbilly from Appalachia? Probably not a lot. But in the New York Times bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, these two worlds collide in the life of J.D. Vance.

Vance’s family was from a small community in the heart of Kentucky’s coal country, and he was raised in the Rust Belt town of Middletown, Ohio. He recounts with humor, sadness, and hope the history of his reckless family—a drug-addicted mother, a rough but loving grandma—and his journey up the social and economic ladder from rural hillbilly to cultural elitist.

This book being written and marketed as a memoir may seem somewhat deceiving. It is a memoir, but its intent is not just to communicate a good story. As Vance lets us live through his varied and difficult experiences, he is constructing a social commentary on the values, disparity, challenges, and disadvantages that define the culture of rural America. In this, his voice is much needed. The 20th Century was not kind to the manufacturing regions of the Northeast, the farms in the Midwest, the fishing and forestry along the coastlines, or the extractive industries of Appalachia. These areas are facing economic, social, and political hardships that have put the whole ...

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