Charles Tilly (1929 2008) held faculty appointments at the Universities of Delaware, Harvard, Toronto and Michigan, and the New School University, and finished his career as the Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science at Columbia University. His over 50 books and monographs cover a wide terrain but from his first historical work, The Vendee (1964), to his last uncompleted manuscript, Cities in World History, his work focused on large-scale social change and its relationship to contentious politics, (especially in Europe since 1500). His writings deal with the history of contention but also with urban history and the study of historical migration patterns. His principal works include: The Contentious French (1986), Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990 1990 (1990), European Revolutions 1492 1992 (1993), Cities and the Rise of States in Europe, AD 1000 1800 (1994), Contention in Great Britain 1758 1834 (1995), and Contentious Performances (2008). A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Ordre des Palmes Academiques, he received numerous international prizes and honorary degrees.
"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist
"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal
"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported 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 one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his 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.