Hillbilly Elegy ~ A Capsule Book Review

Hillbilly Elegy cover

Hillbilly Elegy
~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~

J. D. Vance was born in Appalachian Kentucky in 1984. He refers to himself and his family (without irony) as “hillbillies.” His mother was unstable, often married, and a frequent drug abuser. J. D. had many different surrogate “fathers,” some of whom lasted a very short time. When he was a small child, his family moved to Middletown, Ohio, in search of economic opportunities that were not available to them in Kentucky. His childhood was often chaotic and unsettled, mostly because of his volatile mother. He looked to his grandparents, his “Mamaw” and “Papaw,” for the stability in life that he lacked. He refers to Mamaw and Papaw as “crazy hillbillies.” Papaw drank to excess and was often abusive, but Mamaw was crazy kindness and stability personified. She was exactly the kind of grandmother J. D. needed at exactly the right time. She knew he was smart, though unmotivated. In her own skewed way, she gave him direction and the will to succeed.

Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir by J. D. Vance about his life in a hillbilly family, being imbued with hillbilly values, and then overcoming those values and doing something unexpected with his life. He was a mediocre and underperforming student but in high school scored a perfect score on his SATs. Defying the odds, he made it into Ohio State University, getting his undergraduate degree in a year and a half, and then going on to Yale Law School and getting his law degree. Today he is the Republican candidate for United States Senator from the state of Ohio.

This book is a true-life American success story about an ordinary boy who, through the right set of outside influences and through the will to succeed, was able to overcome his heritage and push through to a better life. Most people are not that lucky.

Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp

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