The Happy Bookers is Phillipsburg Library’s monthly book discussion group. We meet on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. Newcomers are always welcome, and no registration is necessary. Call the library at 908-454-3712 for more information.
Wednesday, June 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Growing up in a working-class family riven by strife and seemingly incapable of escaping its rural Kentucky roots, Vance spent his youth bouncing between homes, a succession of father figures, and ever more explosive situations. The story of how he overcame his upbringing to graduate from Yale Law School and embark on a stable and happy adulthood poses the bigger question of how the obstacles facing other such hillbillies can be surmounted. Vance compellingly describes the terrible toll that alcoholism, drug abuse, and an unrelenting code of honor took on his family, neither excusing the behavior nor condemning it. Instead, he pulls back to examine the larger social forces at work for white, working-class Americans with ties to Appalachia. Unerringly forthright, remarkably insightful, and refreshingly focused, Hillbilly Elegy is the cry of a community in crisis.(Booklist).
- In what way is the Appalachian culture described in HillBilly Elegy a “culture in trouble”?
- Vance suggests that unemployment and addiction are self-inflicted and that the Appalachian culture is one of “learned helplessness”—individuals feel they can do nothing to improve their circumstances. Do you agree with Vance’s assessment? What could individuals do to improve their circumstances? Or are the problems so overwhelming they can’t be surmounted?
- What are the positive values of the culture Vance talks about in Hillbilly Elegy?
- Critics of Hillbilly Elegy accuse Vance of “blaming the victim” rather than providing a sound analysis of the structural issues left unaddressed by government. What do you think?
Excepted from LitLovers
- Kindred by Octavia Butler
- Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rivka Brunt
- Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman