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J.D. Vance Book “Hillbilly Elegy” Review

Family values have always been a central them in American culture and the value system of American society. However, with the changes in the economic and political background, shifts in the perception of family values, as well as the notion of family itself, have become more noticeable. In his book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis,” J.D. Vance addresses the gradual decay of the Appalachian values that his family upheld. Thus, the author renders the theme of change, particularly, how one can cope with change in the perception of family and the related values, simultaneously striving to uphold the traditions of a vulnerable culture.

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The focus on change s the main theme of the book becomes apparent as the author zooms his narration in on Scott-Irish culture and the attempts to grapple with its gradual deterioration. The concept of misery as the unavoidable element of the local environment remains persistent throughout the memoir: “my home is a hub of misery” (Vance, 2016, p. 16). Thus, the author sets the tone for representing the theme of loneliness that accompanies the one of losing a crucial part of one’s authentic self.

In connection to the problem of identity loss, the themes of loneliness and isolation are explored in depth in the memoir. The book is rich with profound and thought-provoking commentaries concerning the state of the Appalachian culture and the preservation of the Irish-Scottish legacy. Furthermore, the author does not shy away from describing the challenges faced by the representatives of the Appalachian population due to prejudices: “I began to understand why she had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer for abused and neglected children” (Vance, 2016, p. 369). The use of accurate and poignant language with very few adornments and the focus on relaying the memories honestly and directly adds haunting charm to the book.

Overall, the themes of family, culture preservation, the feeling loneliness, and the problem of facing prejudices in society with high inequality rates are addressed clearly in the memoir. Carrying the sense of sadness and a wistful mood, the memoir remains a crucial legacy of the Irish-Scottish culture. Managing to connect the themes that appear to be rather incompatible at first, Vance (2016) has created a story that leaves a huge emotional impact.


Vance, J. D. (2016). Hillbilly elegy: A memoir of a family and culture in crisis. Harper.

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