Review: Hillbilly Elegy

I’m hesitant to write this review, because I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t normally read autobiographies, especially of individuals who haven’t accomplished anything particularly remarkable or amusing. (Yes, going to Yale for law school is awesome, but thousands of people have done it.) I actually picked up J.D. Vance’s  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis because I wanted to learn more about what makes hillbillies tick.


The book is less about hillbilly culture than Vance’s own struggles as a poor boy being raised by multiple family members, including a mother, a grandmother that was like a mother, and an aunt. The author tends to generalize his own experiences, believing they are universal among “hillbillies,” or those living throughout Greater  Appalachia.

I’m not really sure why the Wall Street Journal called the book “riveting.” The most exciting scene in the book is when Vance’s high mother tries to kill him. But that isn’t riveting – it’s just plain sad. Even sadder, Vance can’t offer substantive solutions to the social problems he writes about. In conclusion, the book is a real let-down. Spend your money elsewhere.


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