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Hillbilly Elegy summary

J.D. Vance

A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

4.2 (55 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is a powerful memoir that explores the author's journey from a disadvantaged Appalachian upbringing to personal and professional success.
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    Hillbilly Elegy
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    J.D.’s grandparents grew up as middle-class “hillbillies” – an option that no longer exists today.

    J.D. Vance was born a hillbilly. He grew up poor in an Ohio steel town that had been bled dry of both its jobs and its hope. That’s why he identifies with millions of working-class white Americans of Scottish and Irish descent – people who seldom have college degrees and who experience poverty as a family tradition.

    But to truly understand this lineage, we need to go back to the lives of his grandparents. They were hillbillies too, and their experience was typical of this group.

    Known endearingly as Mamaw and Papaw, they were born around 1930 in Jackson, Kentucky. They were hill people or hillbillies, as residents of the Appalachian Mountains are called – sometimes derogatorily.

    In search of work, they left Kentucky for Middletown, Ohio where Papaw landed a job at Armco, a major steel company. And he wasn’t the only one. During the 1950s, Armco aggressively recruited Kentuckians, flooding Ohio’s towns and cities with people like J.D.’s grandparents.

    This factory job allowed the couple to retire comfortably middle class. But today, the situation for hillbillies is much different. Towns like Jackson, Kentucky have been devastated by poverty.

    As a result, in many instances, hill people are synonymous with “poor people.” Practically a third of Jackson is impoverished, including half of its children. Although the public schools are in such disrepair that the state has seized control of them, local parents have no choice but to enroll their children in high schools that send barely any students to college.

    The people of Jackson are also in generally poor physical health. A 2009 ABC news documentary on Appalachian America reported that young kids suffer painful dental problems, often caused by overconsumption of sugary soft drinks.

    But while Jackson is a prime example of Appalachian poverty, this plight is common to cities and towns across the region, which have been drained by the outsourcing of jobs. In the blinks that follow, you’ll learn how this industrial shift affected the personal lives of the hillbillies who call Appalachia home.

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    What is Hillbilly Elegy about?

    Hillbilly Elegy (2016) is an autobiographical walk through the life of a man who grew up in an impoverished neighborhood of Middletown, Ohio. These blinks tell the story of a boy who, despite a turbulent childhood, beat the odds and pulled himself out of poverty.

    Hillbilly Elegy Review

    Hillbilly Elegy (2016) offers an insightful look into the struggles and triumphs of J.D. Vance's life. Here's why you should read it:

    • It provides a unique perspective on the challenges faced by the working-class in rural America.
    • The author's personal story of resilience and determination is both inspiring and thought-provoking.
    • The book sheds light on the complex social and economic issues that impact millions of Americans.

    Experience J.D. Vance's transformative journey by reading Hillbilly Elegy today.

    Best quote from Hillbilly Elegy

    My home is a hub of misery.

    —J.D. Vance
    example alt text

    Who should read Hillbilly Elegy?

    • “Hillbillies” and people from Appalachia
    • Sociologists and scholars of the white American working class
    • Believers in the American dream

    About the Author

    J.D. Vance was raised in the American “rustbelt” in a city called Middletown, Ohio. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq before graduating from Ohio State and Yale Law School. He now works at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm.

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    Hillbilly Elegy FAQs 

    What is the main message of Hillbilly Elegy?

    The main message of Hillbilly Elegy is to understand the struggles of the working-class in rural America and the importance of resilience.

    How long does it take to read Hillbilly Elegy?

    Reading Hillbilly Elegy typically takes around 6-7 hours, while the Blinkist summary can be read in about 15 minutes.

    Is Hillbilly Elegy a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Yes, Hillbilly Elegy is a compelling and eye-opening memoir that offers valuable insights into the lives of the working-class.

    Who is the author of Hillbilly Elegy?

    The author of Hillbilly Elegy is J.D. Vance.

    How many chapters are in Hillbilly Elegy?

    Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance has 14 chapters.

    How many pages are in Hillbilly Elegy?

    There are 272 pages in Hillbilly Elegy.

    When was Hillbilly Elegy published?

    Hillbilly Elegy was published in 2016.

    What to read after Hillbilly Elegy?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Hillbilly Elegy, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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