Socially Distant Book Club
Save the Date: Book Club Discussion -- April 26, 2021 at 3 pm and 7 pm
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
J. D. Vance’s New York Times bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy, is a compelling memoir about what it’s like growing up poor in the Rust Belt. A Marine veteran and Yale graduate, Vance tells the story of his family’s rise out of poverty in Appalachia and their struggle to claim a middle-class life in a slowly fading Ohio steel town. Through the lens of personal experience, Vance explores the lasting effects of poverty, substance abuse, and domestic violence on future generations. He shines a light on the hopelessness and despair of people who were promised the American dream only to watch it slip beyond their grasp. Info from BookBub.com.
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1. How would you describe Appalachian or “hillbilly” culture? Why does Vance believe it’s a culture in crisis?
2. According to Vance, why does drug and alcohol addiction have such a stronghold in Appalachia?
3. Vance paints a vivid portrait of his mother’s spiraling addiction. How does Vance link her addiction to her upbringing?
4. Mamaw and Papaw are two powerful characters in Vance’s childhood. What was their relationship like? Why did Vance’s relationship with Mamaw become such a driving force in his life?
5. Contrast Vance’s life in Middletown, Ohio, with his grandparents’ life in Jackson, Kentucky. How did moving to Middletown change his family’s identity?
6. What role does family play in Appalachian culture? Does “family” mean the same thing to Vance as it does to the rest of his family?
7. Vance paints a portrait of people who believe their situation is unchangeable and calls it “learned helplessness.” Do you agree with him? Why or why not? Why do think Vance was able to change his situation?
8. Why did Vance resent his neighbors who were on welfare? How does Vance portray people on government assistance?
9. What does Vance think will help resolve the crisis of Appalachian culture?
10. What does the title Hillbilly Elegy mean to you? What images are conjured by the word “hillbilly?” Why do you think the author chose this title?