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  • Writer's pictureTamanna Mohapatra

Thoughts on Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I learned about this book first in the post-Trump world that we all found ourselves in towards the end of 2016. For many of us, who were not so much Hillary supporters but just ‘anti-Trump’ where very much caught by surprise. That’s when I heard about this book as giving one window into the world of Trump voters. I am so glad I read this book; it firmed a believe I had of America; that just being in America doesn’t guarantee someone a share of the American dream. Or does it? Read for yourself and decide.

More than anything else, this memoir is a true memoir. You can’t do a book summary of it. You have to read it to experience the pains and the joy of the author and he has both for sure.

The book although very well written and authentic left me a little confused as to its main message. I guess that’s life- there is no perfect answer or solution to the big problems we face.

The questions the book poses to the readers and tries to answer through the life of the reader range from economical- Is the dearth of manufacturing jobs the sole reason for the creation of the rust belt? If so, what is the solution?, to philosophical- Do people have the ability to change their life around no matter what cards they are dealt?, to policy-What’s more important for children- sense of parents and immediate family or safety and stable home environment?, and then some others such as-Should drug users be blamed for their state or is the fault of the damn drugs that are so hard-core addictive?

There where many portions of the book I could relate to. For example, when the author mentions, “ Law school is a three-year obstacle course of life and career decisions. On the one hand, it’s nice to have so many opportunities. On the other hand, I had no idea what to do with those opportunities or any clue which opportunities served some long-term goal.”

I often feel like that- we are living in a land of opportunities- online communities, social media, youtube stars, blog stars, bitcoin technologies, your world is your oyster. But what if you don’t have an entrepreneurial spark? What if you don’t want to be a leader just yet but a very good follower?

The author's (a self-proclaimed hillbilly) journey is remarkable and certainly worth all the hype it has generated. And for those who want to know the obvious ending to his story is happy. As he states, “..understanding my past and knowing that I was not doomed gave me the hope and fortitude to deal with the demons of my youth.”

The lesson from the book I took was we are all dealt the cards we are; some people will always be more fortunate than us and there will be an equal number of people who look up to us and want our lives. In the end, all we can do is take responsibility for our happiness, work hard and take all the support we are getting- be it through immediate family, extended family, the government through military training, payday loan institutes..what have you. Nothing in life is black and white so don’t judge a situation unless you have been in the person’s exact shoes at some point in your life.

I gave the book a solid 8 out of 10, please read it if you get an opportunity.

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