I found Hillbilly Elegy to be a very inspiring memoir. J.D. Vance grew up in a poor Appalachian town. His mother was a drug addict. Two of his grandparents never finished high school. Vance was on his way to failing out of school as well, until his grandmother stepped in and pushed him to succeed. Vance ending up joining the Marines, graduated from Ohio University, and eventually went on to Yale Law School.
I enjoyed reading about Vance’s family and his personal story. Vance’s grandmother, Memaw, was one of my favorites and she provided the needed humor and strictness for Vance to flourish in his dysfunctional family. She was a tough lady and her love for Vance was clear.
This book is described as part memoir, part historical and social analysis, however I found there was little analysis. The majority of the book is a recount of Vance’s life (all 31 years of it). There were a couple of instances where he delved into the history of the area and some sociological aspects, but those were slim and not very extensive.
While I enjoyed the memoir part of the book, I was a bit disappointed in the rest. I’ve read many reviews and heard so much about this book, but I didn’t have the same experience as other readers. To me, this book was just a memoir about a boy who overcame obstacles and makes something of himself. It really didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know and I didn’t learn anything new about the “culture in crisis”.