In Hillbilly Elegy, author J.D. Vance describes his childhood struggles of living in Middletown, Ohio, a town home to a white, working-class community. Vance’s father was mostly absent from his life, and although he still had his mother, she did not make his life any easier. His grandparents and older sister came to be the people he knew he could rely on, although they had faults of their own. In fact, most Middletown residents had their fair share of problems, from single motherhood and domestic violence, to drug use and unemployment. Through a supportive network, positive role models, and determination, Vance beats the odds. He chronicles his journey, at the end of which he is a Yale Law School graduate and is happily married.
I found myself flying through this memoir, because there was always something going on to make me turn the next page. I also appreciated the fact that although Vance grew successful, he never forgot his roots. I did not get the sense that he spoke of his childhood community in a condescending manner. Instead, he was sympathetic. But he also acknowledged that although the struggles of white working-class communities will not go away anytime soon, members of those communities can do certain things to ease their hardships.