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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Unabridged Audiobook

Written By: J. D. Vance

Narrated By: J. D. Vance

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Date: June 2016

Duration: 6 hours 50 minutes


From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful 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
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. 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, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. 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. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.


  • Tracey H

    Narration was absolutely perfect! Listened on a long trip, to the WHOLE book.. great connection to your audience.. simply fell in love.. Buckeyes are life ????

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Naveen Rondla

    I was born and raised in India. I came to US for graduate school. When I had conversations with fellow American students I was jealous of comforts they had during their childhood. But listening to the story of J. D. Vance I realized that there are many people here who are more unlucky than I was. Growing up we didn't have much money, our family was together though, and there was no substance abuse or violence in the family. That's what probably helped me to achieve my goals. The way J. D. Vance describes how growing up in such families impacts people psychologically. How some wounds may not be healed is really amazing. I would recommend this book to everyone so that they would appreciate many things they would take for granted. I like when the book is read by the author as he can put his feelings into narration.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • william Maddex

    Fascinating in depth look at a poorly understood cultural perspective. JDs forthright assessments of the human dilemma faced by the Appalachian people's is a compelling treatise. Well written well read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Kristi T.

    Boring, not interesting at all. Did not make a point. Narration was very monotone throughout and was very 'read' without feeling. It's just another story of rags to riches, but nothing extraordinary or exciting.

  • Crystal H.

    Very good book!! I couldn’t stop listening to it when I started. A lot of it resembled my life.

  • Wayne I.

    I can’t say enough for this detailed, introspective analysis from an obvious expert. Since I am also an expert on the subject for similar reasons reasons, I attest to the genuine truth and unflinching perception J D Vance shares with those willing to understand.

  • Sandy M

    Narrator: JD Vance Hillbilly Elegy This book is read by the author, J.D. Vance. He reads in a dull monotone and I couldn't always tell when there was a paragraph or page break. Several colleagues really enjoyed this look at Appalachia, but I thought it was more of a foundation for his future Senate race.... I wish he'd hired an actor to read it aloud; it might have held interest.

  • Donna O

    This book was recommended to me. The only reason I listened to the end was for a point to be made in his tautological tale. The truly disturbing fact is I paid money to listen to the book. Most people have inter generational culture effects on their life; he is not unique. The book is the arrogant self congratulatory autobiography of an ordinary life. CORRELATION is NOT CAUSATION!! To overgeneralize to crises is absurd. Most authors should not narrate their own work!! J.D. Vance is a case in point. I kept checking my device to make sure I was not on 1.25 speed. I will admit that after I finished the book and no longer wanted to challenge him on his false/incompletencorrelations and perspective, I did reflect on my own inter generational culture.

  • Anonymous

    Insightful view into Appalachian culture. Appreciated author as narrator.

  • Tracy G

    Enjoyed the book and narration. Never knew much about the “Hillbilly” way of life, other than the stereotype. Being from Ohio, it was kind of eye opening to learn this was happening in my state. The realistic view of “Hillbilly” life that J.D. Vance portrays is both sad yet inspiring. He’s proof that the American Dream is attainable for even those who have great odds to overcome.