“The truth is hard, and the hardest truths for hill people are the ones they must tell about themselves.”
Some people have the deck stacked against them their whole lives. Some manage to find a way to rise above it all. J.D. was born to a mom who could never seem to settle down. Drugs and alcohol did not help any of the relationships and J.D. learned to not get attached to any male influence in his life. The two constants were his grandparents and, in the end, having some consistency made all the difference. His “Hillbilly Elegy” starts small, but ends with him being in a committed relationship with a Yale law degree.
A friend recommended this book to me and I am very glad she did. Hillbilly Elegy is a story of hope that needs to be shared widely. J.D. Vance doesn’t just tell his story, though. He also brings in statistics and research as to why so many “hillbilly” kids don’t succeed in life. When this book was on sale one day on BookBub, I quickly bought it. I chose to read it in July as my biography book.
While J.D. worked hard at school, not knowing if there would be dinner or where he would stay the night took its toll on him and caused stress, which affected his performance. He ended up staying with his grandma the last three years of high school and that gave him the small foundation he needed to move up. He joined the Marines out of high school and learned all the things he was never taught – car loan shopping, what to wear to a job interview and self-confidence. After that, he went to the Ohio State University and then to Yale Law School. His views of relationships had to change once he got a steady girlfriend – all he had seen was yelling and leaving growing up.
Vance is brave in laying out his whole story – good and bad – to show what life is really like for many children in the heartland of America, but to also show what can make a difference to let them escape and build a good future. I would recommend this book to any adult, but especially those who live and word in the Kentucky/Ohio region. It gives insights into the lives of people we may not pay attention to and thoughts on how to offer help. For those of us who have never wanted, it’s hard to imagine how much a steady, warm bed and steady meals can make a difference in the life of a child. We need to seek them out and care.