Yale Law Student Turned Best-Selling Hillbilly Author
J.D. Vance came from 'hillbillies, rednecks, white trash, choose your epithet,' wrote the New York Times reviewer.
Reviewers say that Vance, who rose from Appalachian poverty to New York Times best-selling author, wrote the only book to make sense out of the election of President Donald Trump. Vance, a Yale Law School graduate, put it together in "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis."
"Mr. Vance has inadvertently provided a civilized reference guide for an uncivilized election," the Times said.
Steel Town to Silicon Valley
Raised in a decaying steel town, Vance descended from sharecroppers, coal miners, machinists and mill workers. His mother was married five times, but was mostly wed to drugs like heroin. His grand-parents, though violent, loved and cared for him.
"When you grow up in a dying steel town with very few middle-class job prospects, making a better life for yourself is often a binary proposition: if you don't get a good job, you may be stuck on welfare for the rest of your life," Vance said in an interview for American Conservative.
He broke out of poverty when he joined the Marines, and emerged after a tour in Iraq with new direction. He went to Yale law school, but found his calling after he wrote his book. It is on route to become a motion picture, and he is now a Silicon Valley investor.
Why did his book strike a nerve with readers in a politically precarious time? Because, as the Economist said, "You will not read a more important book about America this year."
Rednecks Can Read, Too
Vance says that Trump appealed to white, working-class America like no other presidential candidate in recent history. Trump said things many were thinking, but were afraid to say out loud.
"He shoots from the hip; he's not constantly afraid of offending someone; he'll get angry about politics; he'll call someone a liar or a fraud," Vance said. "This is how a lot of people in the white, working-class actually talk about politics, and even many elites recognize how refreshing and entertaining it can be!"
In his book, Vance tells his personal story in a way that explains an uncooked underbelly of American politics -- an overlooked underclass that found a voice in the mainstream. Still, he worries about a Trump presidency.
"But I remain incredibly optimistic about the future," he said. "Maybe that's the hillbilly resilience in me."
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