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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 classHillbilly 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 ????

    1 of 1 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.

  • 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.

  • Adam D

    A great job in finding the center of the pride of coal mining and steel mill workers, mr Vance was lucky to get out of the rat race that holds a hard working person back, good luck on living with the memories of those that came befor you.

  • Jane L

    Great insight to Rust Belt

  • Lynette J

    Very interesting and enlightening portrayal of a cultural section of our country, but really would have preferred that Mr. Vance had someone else narrate.

  • Peggy S

    Brutally honest depiction of life in Appalachia and how he overcame his environment.

  • Diane M

    Great book - it reminded me of the many people I have come across while living in Kentucky and Louisiana. The book gave me more insight into the lives of those living in poverty. JD is a great story teller, tells it like it is and adds humor amongst all of the challenging events he encounters in his life. I highly recommend the book!

  • Christine M

    Not the kind of book I enjoy. Listening was boring.