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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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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.

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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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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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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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  • 11-15-16

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Cronin
  • 02-17-17

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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  • Geri Bruce
  • 10-15-17

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
  • 09-29-17

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.

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  • Olivia
  • 09-25-17

Insight into working class America

an interesting personal account of someone overcoming their socio-economic background and breaking the cycle of abuse and addiction to achieve.

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  • evianeau
  • 09-18-17

What a life-changing book!

Would you consider the audio edition of Hillbilly Elegy to be better than the print version?

Yes, I loved the audio edition of Hillbilly Elegy as there is no need for holding onto the print version book on the very busy Tube journeys.

What did you like best about this story?

It was one of those books that teaches you that nothing is impossible.

Have you listened to any of J. D. Vance’s other performances? How does this one compare?

I haven't but I would love to listen to his other books in future.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes

Any additional comments?

Love the book so much and re-listening it at the moment

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  • Tatiana
  • 08-29-17

Not seeing the big deal

Having connections is good for your career, having a dysfunctional family is bad for your life, and getting away from it all to see a bit of the world and gain perspective can be a good thing. If you could work this out on your own, this book has nothing new to tell you except some semi-amusing anecdotes about crazy-ass people.

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  • Admiral Billboe
  • 01-16-17

kids staving

good story true to life today in the US.
someone who made from the other side of the tracks.

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  • Bee
  • 12-30-16

Unexpectedly good

Really enjoyed this. Not an academic text but an insight into a culture I know little about from a personal point of view. Explains a bit more about why Trump is so popular. A good combination of sympathy, empathy and realism and a reminder of what children do and don't need. I would have liked a a few other perspectives eg if the author had asked his mother why she thought she behaved in the way she did, but maybe that's another book.

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  • P. Victor
  • 12-27-16

one of the best books

loved it, could not put it down
uncomfortable truths about working class whites. Very captivating and simple style.

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  • Heyjools187
  • 12-18-16

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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  • James
  • 10-07-16

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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  • Belinda Fagan
  • 10-10-17

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
  • 09-24-17

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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  • Kirsty
  • 09-20-17

Honest (I hope), raw and oassionate

Apart from taking major exception to his view that the US is the greatest country on earth, I enjoyed hearing about one man's very personal struggle against the hand dealt him through accident of birth, and his ability to make a life beyond bad teeth, poor diet, failed relationships and unemployment.
His views on welfare are contentious but understandable, like when he dislikes that his taxes are allowing the person receiving welfare to buy the steak he can't afford. He doesn't seem to reflect that in parallel, the vastly reduced fees he paid for Yale Law because of low parental income would have been unavailable to a person whose parents earned a bit more, enough to make their child ineligible to receive the subsidy, but not enough to afford to pay the high tuition fees.
He writes that he has come to terms with his relatives, both the ones who nurtured him and the ones who failed him in the worst possible way. The breakdown of family life through generations is truly appalling.
I look forward to hearing in the future what steps he is taking to help fix the community he so obviously values but which is so obviously broken.

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  • Jacob
  • 09-03-17

Struggling with the american dream

heartwarming story of a family moving up in current USA society. it's not easy, but if you work hard, it's paying off.

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  • AndrewH
  • 06-28-17

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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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-16-17

Revelation

For those outside of the USA, this book offers an insightful explanation for the previously unfathomable reason for Trumps eventual political success.

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  • Phill Russell
  • 04-02-17

Incredible book,

Powerfully moving account of the struggle of social mobility in America, a fascinating, challenging read

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  • Ruth
  • 03-08-17

Overrated

The entire premise of this book seems to be that the American dream has failed, yet if this overhyped and largely boring book of one hillbilly's rise from redneck to Yale can make the New York Times' bestseller list and be heralded as an explanation for Trump's popularity, then the American dream is truly alive and well. Indeed, anyone or any book can make it.

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