“Hillbilly Elegy” – Nothing Could Be More Timely

hillbilly

The new story that has already been named a bestseller by many reputable editions – “Hillbilly Elegy”, written by J. D. Vance, is not something you are going to miss. The book represents some sort of autobiography crossed with the analysis of the present-day American social and economical situation.


It has brought on a great deal of discussion recently, unsurprisingly. With all the debate around elections and the course the state is going to take in the nearest future – such narratives are not to be overlooked or neglected. Thus, we have a book that brings all the questions around class, culture and income gap and what not – to the light; sincerely and eloquently on one private example.

The book starts with the story of the Vance’s grandparents who moved from impoverished Kentucky to a more industrial Ohio with hopes for a better future. It further develops into a personal story of the author and his standing from a person from insecure background to the person he has become – moved upward on a social ladder and succeeded both financially and in terms of status.

The book also tells more than his personal story; there are plenty of examples typical for most of the “white working-class” – as the author calls them – representatives. These are his family and his acquaintances, people he worked with or has known. The author discloses the fact (overlooked by most legal and governmental representatives) that a certain segment of the country – and a pretty huge one – still lives below the line and has to face poverty, violence and addiction on a daily basis. He also tells a story of a person who has been able to move up – and how this upward mobility feels.

This books also sheds plenty of light on the question why the Republicans get so much support in this part of the country; and among low-income working-class population in the first place. So does the interview made by Rod Dreher with the author on theamericanconservative.com: “Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People”.


Among all the issues covered in the book there is another one: most people have heard heated debates around payday loans – it is a cornerstone for many. The book can be extremely useful in this respect to those law-makers who are continuously trying to pass all the more restricting laws on the industry.

Following the U.S. News‘ thought: “the book should . . . be required reading among those of us in education and ed policy”, Joe Colangelo, Executive Director of Consumers’ Research, covers this issues very closely in his Forbes article “What A Best-Selling Memoir Tells Us About Payday Loans”.

He particularly highlights the fact that the books is exemplary as it most vividly shows how the regulatory bodies that make laws actually have very little or no idea about what is best to be done.

One of such cases concerns Ohio’s Sub. H.B. 545, which J. D. Vance covers in his story. The law capped payday loan amount at $500, interest rates at 25% and extended a minimal loan duration up to a month. It was supported by the majority and opposed only by one vote – the one of the Senator Schuler. In accordance to Vance, all these measures do look chivalrous and to the benefit of the low-income families and individuals, whom law-makers seem to be so ardent to help and defend from so-called “predatory” credit practices; however, these attempts have very little with the understanding of the reality of the people they are meant for.

One of the quotes from the books illustrates the idea: “On that day, a three-day payday loan, with a few dollars of interest, enabled me to avoid a significant overdraft fee. The legislators debating the merits of payday lending didn’t mention situations like that. The lesson? Powerful people sometimes do things to help people like me without really understanding people like me.”


The course of the debate around payday loans is hard to predict in the light of the following elections despite the tendency that has developed. At the present moment more and more states choose to follow the steps of the states that have already either completely banned or severely restricted the liberties of payday loan industry. This course is mostly defined by the people who stand behind the aforementioned regulations, who claim to serve for the good of the state, yet, who also represent the elite that have never actually encountered any of the problems low-income families have to face daily. And, in retrospect, perhaps, this book might be pretty useful for them in the first place as it is capable of providing another angle for looking at social-economical situation in the country in general and payday loan issue in particular.

As Joe Colangelo states “how well-intended regulations can have unintended consequences that hurt the very people they are meant to assist.” He also suggest the book as a very good and instructive read for all the legislative representatives in general (the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau including) – as well as every opponent of payday loan industry in general.


The book has got a number of praising quotes from all the reputable magazines and papers including some of the following:

“[Hillbilly Elegy] couldn’t have been better timed…a harrowing portrait of much that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations…an honest look at the dysfunction that afflicts too many working-class Americans.”National Review

“The troubles of the working poor are well known to policymakers, but Vance offers an insider’s view of the problem.”Christianity Today

“[A] compassionate, discerning sociological analysis…Combining thoughtful inquiry with firsthand experience, Mr. Vance has inadvertently provided a civilized reference guide for an uncivilized election, and he’s done so in a vocabulary intelligible to both Democrats and Republicans. Imagine that.”New York Times


The story is available in all bookstores and can be purchased online.