Monday, December 19, 2016

Best of 2016: Class crisis




Reviewed by Bonnie Y.,
Reference Librarian



Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, has been on the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists for months. As the country comes to terms with the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, this book manages to shed some light on the white working-class population that may have motivated the groundswell that elected him.

J.D. Vance is a former Marine, Ohio State University graduate, and Yale Law alumnus who writes of his family's humble beginnings,  from his Kentucky Appalachian-bred Scotch-Irish grandparents who moved their family to Ohio for a better life to his mother, trained as a nurse but succumbing to drug addiction and a parade of husbands. Stubborn, proud and poor, Vance talks of his family's struggles to maintain a middle-class nuclear family while struggling with the abuse, alcoholism, trauma and poverty that was their prior norm.

Globalization, free trade, and clean energy industries only meant that the former coal-dependent communities his family was from lost more jobs. His former company town lost residents. Those who were left felt hopeless. It was a downward spiral for many. There is nothing more politically energizing than entire Rust Belt communities believing that the economy--and the government that drives it--has passed them by. It is only a matter of time before a movement begins.

Vance writes tellingly of his family's journey. He has now "made it," as an Ivy League graduate with a ticket to the good life. His book shows the determination and passion that got him there. It also gives the reader insight into the hard-working communities that, politically, can never be overlooked, if one aspires to the nation’s highest office.

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library also offers the audio recording of this book.

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