Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hillbilly Elegy

In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance describes his unlikely journey from a chaotic childhood in Middletown, Ohio, to college, Yale Law School and a real shot at the American dream. It's been a good book to read during this crazy election season, as we have a national conversation (shouting match) about "making America great again."

While Vance does not disparage the government help he receives — the Pell grants and scholarships and the four years he spent in the Marine Corps that turned his life around — what made a difference for him, he says, was not policy but people: his grandparents, sister, aunts and uncles.

They were there to pick him up when he was down, to show him by example how to live his life. But they — his hillbilly tribe — have deep-seated problems of their own that government policies alone won't solve.

To read this book is to feel both depressed at the depth of these problems and inspired that someone can surmount them. It is, also, to realize how complex are the workings of the human heart.


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