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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and…
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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (udgave 2016)

af J. D. Vance (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
4,8742851,659 (3.79)358
Vance, a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, provides an account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America's white working class. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck. The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.'s grandparents were "dirt poor and in love," and moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance's grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America.… (mere)
Medlem:Trent0757
Titel:Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Forfattere:J. D. Vance (Forfatter)
Info:Harper (2016), Edition: Reprint Ed., 272 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

Detaljer om værket

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis af J. D. Vance

Nyligt tilføjet afbettie, tyeve, SheriDacon, dstarchman, privat bibliotek, triplem80, sophiehatter, Alvaro77, scaryaadillo
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I've seen this book often used as a sociological shortcut to "explain Donald Trump" or something similar. That's somewhat fair, in that the kinds of people within voted overwhelmingly for Trump, and Vance does talk about how the peculiar politics of the Scots-Irish leave them fertile soil for a bitter weed like Trump to ripen in. On the other hand, it's not really about politics so much as it is the people behind those politics, and many of the more well-known explanations for Trump's appeal are beyond its scope; it's like expecting Ta-Nehisi Coates' The Beautiful Struggle to "explain Barack Obama", or Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club to "explain Elaine Chao". It is, however, a well-written memoir about what it means to grow up in one of the more historically under-achieving white subcultures in America, and as Vance tries to explain his own improbable success, he also tries to explain why so many others didn't make it. So expect plenty of fun stories about how drunk, violent, and stupid people can be, as well as how kind, generous, and decent people can be (sometimes the same people), as part of a personal account of the pathology of poverty in hillbilly Appalachia.

Vance is from Kentucky by way of Ohio, one of the many members of the vast Scots-Irish settlement in the Appalachian hills and adjoining catchment areas. His extended family is one of those clannish, matriarchal-by-default dysfunctional hillbilly types due to the familiar social illnesses of poverty, drug abuse, violence, unemployment, infidelity, undereducation, laziness, and so on, but even though Vance presents his upbringing as a litany of child abuse, he spends nearly as much time talking about how much he benefited from figures like his grandparents who were important in his life. On a narrative level, seeing Vance go from bouncing around between surrogate parents to joining the Marines, attending Ohio State and Yale, and ending up with a girlfriend who loves and supports him (and eventually married him, it appears), is the kind of feel-good story that's impossible to dislike. Good on you, Vance!

But, of course, the parts that got all the press are the ones about the dysfunction of his native hillbilly culture, which are as lurid as any reality TV show. David Hackett Fisher's book Albion's Seed (which Vance doesn't cite in his copious footnotes) spent a good deal of time talking about how the unique folkways of what's now termed the Scots-Irish stems from the settlement patterns of the proto-United States in the 1700s, and how they made a distinct people even to this day. As an aside, this is one reason, aside from the obviously visible poverty and deprivation, that arguments about "white privilege" fall tremendously flat in Greater Appalachia: not only are these white folks no richer than blacks, but they weren't even really considered white in the way that, say, the Quakers or Puritans were. Owsley County, Kentucky, the poorest county in the United States and very close to Vance's grandparents' home, is 99% white, and their narrative is very different than that of, say, Massachusetts. Thomas Sowell's Black Rednecks and White Liberals discusses the deep connections and similarities between the black and white cultures of the south in further detail, but racial details are relatively absent from the book, in part because much of life here has little to do with the kind of racial debate that consumes so much of the national discourse.

Vance has an interesting perspective on what exactly is wrong with the people around him, if you want to put it that way. He calls himself a conservative, and he is skeptical of government programs as a way to "solve" hillbilly culture. But it's not that they're not good programs - he readily acknowledges the vital role that public education played in helping him lift himself out of poverty, and he doesn't dispute the role of government in the abstract - his opposition is based on the fact that he feels like most of the people around him either didn't value the things that lead to success or were actively hostile towards them:

"As a child, I associated accomplishments in school with femininity. Manliness meant strength, courage, a willingness to fight, and, later, success with girls. Boys who got good grades were 'sissies' or 'faggots.' I don’t know where I got this feeling. Certainly not from Mamaw, who demanded good grades, nor from Papaw. But it was there, and studies now show that working-class boys like me do much worse in school because they view schoolwork as a feminine endeavor. Can you change this with a new law or program? Probably not. Some scales aren't that amenable to the proverbial thumb."

It's that kind of cultural pathology that works like Charles Murray's recent Coming Apart have focused on, particularly how weak families and income segregation lead to enduring stagnation, and Vance's ground-level sociology explores how that plays out in attitudes to institutions that most Americans take for granted. So when he discusses, for example, the endemic distrust of the news media that's become so relevant in this era of "fake news" and questionable publications, he talks about how his people actually enjoy reading lies and disinformation of the Alex Jones variety, and aggressively dismiss facts that challenge their worldview. It's one thing to sympathize for people who end up trapped in the court system, as many of his kinfolk do, but how do you square that with their self-defeating lifestyle and hostility to outsiders who have it together? One thing that made a real difference to his own learned helplessness was the military:

"I'm not saying ability doesn't matter. It certainly helps. But there's something powerful about realizing that you've undersold yourself - that somehow your mind confused lack of effort for inability. This is why, whenever people ask me what I'd most like to change about the white working class, I say, "The feeling that our choices don't matter." The Marine Corps excised that feeling like a surgeon does a tumor."

Obviously every hillbilly in Appalachia can't join the military (though they do join at disproportionately high rates), but Vance doesn't offer many concrete policy suggestions. You can toss around high-level literary concepts like Nietzschean ressentiment, Rousseauian amour-propre, or Gogolian poshlost all you want, but if this is essentially a broken culture, as Vance seems to imply, then there's not much for the rest of the country to do but give those who want to escape a hand up, and pursue policies of benign neglect to the remainder. To bring this back to Trump, then, perhaps the best companion to this memoir is another famous work that explored the appeal that flawed demagogues have to poorly-educated whites: Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. Willie Stark doesn't solve Louisiana's problems in the novel, and Trump won't solve Appalachia's, but it's worth understanding their appeal, in the naive but necessary hope that maybe someday we will solve the conditions that lead to their rise. Vance is doing well for himself on that score, and is worth reading for that alone. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
A memoir of a young man who grew up in the Rust Belt of Ohio, with roots going into Kentucky and Appalachia. A story of a child who witness a lot of bad yet manages to make something of his life. asking the question "What if?" about how he manages his life now. ( )
  foof2you | Apr 12, 2021 |
3*
J.D. Vance illustrates what life is like for the population of lower socioeconomic status peoples in the rust belt. Coming from an education background where we had to learn about different SES groups as well as teaching in one of the poorest counties in Wisconsin for three years taught me many of the things that Vance brings up in his story. He explained and gave evidence that I've both witnessed in my teacher career as well as have thought myself, so nothing here felt very new from my perspective. After he analyzed why this group of people continues to be the way they are, I was looking for a solution. Or at least something closer to a solution. I have many students like this on my caseload who will become what their current situation is if they don't make the change themselves, but how do they overcome their situation when they don't have the resources or support to try and make their life different than what they already know? These were some of the solutions that I was looking for and all that Vance could really say to that was, I had better support than most individuals in my place and I took advantage of the supports that were there. And I would agree with that, but I guess I just wanted a little more. ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
This is a really great memoir. Vance explores the condition of the white working poor. In his own words, "I may be white, but I do not identify with the WASPs of the Northeast. Instead, I identify with the millions of working-class white Americans of Scots-Irish descent who have no college degree."

He does this while never proselytizing or blaming any politician; he simply explores and explains. And while I'm not sure it explains the rise of Trump Nation, it does explain a class and a culture that is under-represented in the American conversation. Vance's voice should be a welcome addition to that conversation. Highly recommended.

( )
  evenlake | Mar 23, 2021 |
I love the writing style in this, and the story it tells is the story of pretty much everywhere I've ever seen humans, though perhaps with a bit more of an aggressive overtone. ( )
  wetdryvac | Mar 2, 2021 |
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tilføjet af janw | RedigerNew Yorker, Josh Rothman (Sep 12, 2016)
 

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Vance, J. D.primær forfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
Carlson-Stanisic, LeahDesignermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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My name is J. D. Vance, and I think I should start with a confession: I find the existence of the book you hold in your hands somewhat absurd.
Like most small children, I learned my home address so that if I got lost, I could tell a grown-up where to take me.
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Vance, a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, provides an account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America's white working class. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck. The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.'s grandparents were "dirt poor and in love," and moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance's grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America.

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