"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal
"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.
But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
In this respect, the idea of the self could be best made sense of in the broader context of the circuits of cul-ture where identities are conformed together with other key cultural processes including representation and cul-tural production, consumption and regulation.
The chapters in this collection explore the relations of selves with a wide range of cultural products (e.g. mass media, poetry, fiction, film, painting, advertising, the Internet, education, the institutional, etc.) across a multiplicity of social, political, geographical and historical contexts. Selves are accordingly approached through the study of the interplay between identity-construction processes and cultural products within particular circuits of culture. It is the conditions of such cultural circuits that have an impact on specific faces of the self. This is indeed the case of gender, race and ethnicity, nation and age, which are dimensions of the self that are drawn attention to throughout the contributions in this volume.
The contributions here specifically focus on a wide variety of issues ranging from the ideological construction of identities in print media to the narratives of the postmodern condition in film and fiction, through investigations into youth, the dialogue between the canon and the popular in Shakespeare, and the so-called topographies of the popular in spatial and visual representation. In exploring the interface between cultural studies and popular culture through a number of significant case studies, this volume will be of interest not only within the fields of cultural studies, but also within media and communication studies, film studies, and gender studies, among others.
The chapters of this volume range from overtly theoretical discussions on the construction of identities and subjectivities in post-modernity, to examinations of the crucial role of (print) media in identity-construction and -representation processes in contemporary social formations through an insight into other key issues in cultural studies, such as gender politics and the construction of femininities, the hybridization of identities in the context of postcolonial work, and the interplay between collective identities and discourses on nation.