Friday, December 30, 2016

Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance)

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is a memoir of the author's life as he rose from a broken home to become an Ivy League law graduate, largely overcoming the obstacles of his childhood and family. Vance argues that many of the struggles that he and his family faced were commonplace throughout the Rust Belt and Appalachia, where his family once lived before his grandparents moved to suburban Cincinnati several decades ago.

This book has risen to prominence in thought leader circles to help understand the struggles of the white working class in this country.  Vance points out that his hurdles, though different in specifics, are not markedly unlike those of other demographic groups in that much of what drives the struggles in health and education are also economically driven.  Vance’s own struggles emulate those of many we know near or within our own extended families, not just in the Rust Belt or in Appalachia, but in working class communities throughout the country that have fallen on or have remained downtrodden for many decades.

Given the vitriolic nature of the election, Hillbilly Elegy provides a refreshing and real take on what many are struggling with in this country; there is a large segment of the population that is frustrated at being left behind in a more globalized world.  While Vance does not argue for any specifics in fixing those problems, he does call upon the working class of this country to not blame Washington alone. More important, he argues that success starts with ensuring we take care of young children and making sure we provide opportunities for them, their mothers, and for their extended families -- to ensure that homes don’t fall apart completely and that families, even if they are markedly extended, somehow stay together for the sake of the next generation.