Book Review – Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

This is the memoir of a guy who is now the principal of a leading Silicon Valley investment firm, who but grew up in Appalachia (he called a small town in Kentucky’s coal country, home). It could be seen as an “Only in America” story – poor white trash makes good by way of the Marine Corp (including serving in Iraq), Ohio State University and Yale Law School. But to me it was a story about the lives of the type of people that President Trump appealed to, the poor whites of rust belt USA.

His grand parents, particularly his grandmother “Mamaw” effectively brought him up; a strong personality who even the police were afraid of. The character Frances McDormand plays in the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is of much the same ilk. In telling his own story he shows what identifies his people from other white Americans and talks about the problems in their society including drug abuse and family breakdowns, and their strengths including fierce support for kin. This is a story about a subset of American society and how its members operate from someone who was brought up in it rather than an analysis by an academic outsider, and that made it fascinating to me. There are, perhaps, a few parallels to the small town Australia I grew up in. I am not saying a lot, just a few.

I certainly recommend this well written book.

Brian Holliday

Never stop learning!