Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

i heard about this book on mpr a couple months ago, where the described it as the book to read if you want to know more about rural white america in these divided times. i put it on my to-read list, then a month ago i found out that the mn state system office was doing an online book club with this as its first book. so i actually went out and bought a copy.

for me reading this book, i see it less as a testament to political division and more an explanation of family systems, gender expectations, poverty, and homogeneity in childhood. his family system was not good. there was a lot of fighting and a lot of violence. there were expectations to defend your family honor, especially for him as a boy. and even if accusations were true! there was substance abuse until they seeked help from 1st Step, no stable father figure that his mom kept around, and no stability or consistent support from his mom. his support came in the form of his grandparents, sister, and aunt, and he was lucky to have them.

and while he touches on poverty as an impetus for much of this, he also makes note that his mom was a nurse and made good money (when she worked). his grandparents made a chunk o’ change. but the values to hold down a job and come to work on time are not something his contemporaries hold dear. poverty can hold some people down, but i think his message is more about family systems than money. a family can be in poverty, accept assistance in the form of welfare and foodstamps, and it can still be happy, productive, and working on moving up in the world.

i came away from reading this wondering more about how to help out family systems that are violent and emotionally damaging. how to knock down these expectations we hold for masculinity (and femininity) that still haunt vance enough that he was ready to fight a guy who cut him off in traffic. how to desegregate the classes so those less fortunate can see how life could be if given or even shown the right opportunities. and mostly how to create a support system when so many of our fellow countrypeople are too dang proud to even admit they need help, let alone ask for it in this country of autonomy and bootstraps.

vance is right; digging out of the pit of despair starts at home, but recognizing the pit is the first step. the second is to create and provide a system of help before it’s too late.

i leave you with a quote from martin luther king, jr: β€œIt’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” So even if you don’t like books that much but you read this review and other reviews you can like this Facebook page for hotrate and find more reviews for other products.

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literally can’t even!

oh, my poor blog readers. you were expecting me to keep at least some level of posting this year. i think i’ve blogged twice this month. TWICE! omg, what is wrong with me

(i know what’s worng: work sucks right now. i can barely function when i get home. i go to work, i come home and do my half marathon training, and i collapse in front of the tv for an hour before i go to bed. there is nothing in my head to blog right now.)

that aside, here’s an update. this weekend, in february, was pretty nice. i went for a long run on saturday – 7 miles – and on sunday i organized all the junk in my shed. ah, organization! it looks much better in there now. i got some tool holders for the walls, and now all my shovels are up and ready for spring. put together a tool chest i got nate for christmas (but really for me) and put all the tools in it. and i pruned my apple trees. i’m not sure if i did enough, but the internet tells me that with major pruning, you should do it over three years. i took a big chunk of stuff out of both trees, so i guess that’ll do for now. 

the cats had some outside time, and ralf didn’t run away like i was expecting. but he does like to wander, so back in the house he went while sophie hung out for a while on the patio while i pruned. 

in related news, i now have two pairs of loppers, a hedge trimmer, and a hand saw. i’ll need them this spring! holy cow, there is brush up the wazoo that needs to be cleared out, and there is junk (literally junk – like an old plow, garden pots, trailer, etc.) in the wooded area behind the shed. 

well, that’s all i’ve got for now. i hope i blog at least once more this month, but i just don’t know. πŸ™


frazzle dazzle

i am slowly drowning at work. every day i walk out the door, and it’s like a huge weight was lifted off, but half the weight is still there. i come home and can’t stop thinking about all the stuff that needs to be done.

i like my job! and most times, it can be fun! but the sheer amount of work is going to do me in. thankfully, we start a job search tomorrow with the prospect of a new person starting mid march.

huzzah! here’s hoping we find someone qualified and who will be my friend D:

i’ve zenned out on current events. i’m still concerned, but my anger has subsided. i think this is partly due to the phone change, partly due to daily yoga, and partly due to the idea that nothing they do any more will shock me. literally can’t even any more. freedom of the press overrated? pffft. judges have poor judgment? eh, who needs checks and balances. listen to my alternative facts and regard them as truth? why not. unbelievable. 

i think my next politiblog might go over the constitution. i’d like to know more about it. you might too.

also, i’m thinking of taking a paralegal class next fall! i’m hoping there’s something akin to constitutional law that i can take, since i’ve taken two media law classes. i’ll have to do some research (ahem) on them. 

it goes both ways

i’m pretty passionate about the first amendment, if you haven’t figured that out by now. a lot of left-leaning people generally are pro-first amendment and make a big deal out of it: see the recent marches, etc. but what baffles my mind is when they can’t see that the first amendment goes both ways. you get to say your piece, and the other guy does too. THAT’S HOW IT WORKS.  

exhibit a:


is it ok to punch a nazi?

this guy, whose name i don’t know nor do i care to know, was giving an interview. he is a white supremacist, aka nazi. someone came up to him mid-interview, punched him, and ran away. 

twitter exploded. every liberal person i follow on my feed had some pithy 140 characters about how it’s american to punch a nazi. how punching was too good for the nazi. how they wanted to punch nazis all day long.

and my mouth dropped open, thinking, what on earth is wrong with you people? this guy is talking about his nazi ideals, which he is entitled to think and talk about as long as he doesn’t use them to infringe on anyone else’s rights. and someone punched him.

if you brought up the first amendment to any of the it’s-ok-to-punch-a-nazi people? well, hellfire was wrought. you basically had to shut down you twitter account forever at that point. 

i unfollowed my fave web cartoonist (questionable content!) because he would not shut up about how he didn’t want to hear that punching nazis was really an affront to the first amendment. and many of his followers would twitter-attack you if you wanted to make a case.

the nazi has every right to speak out about his beliefs as long as he isn’t infringing on someone else’s rights*. his opponents had every right to speak out against him as long as there are no personal threats (that’s fighting words, kids). OR, his opponents had every right to turn around and ignore him. 

you know that episode of the simpson’s where the giant ads come to life, and the whole town sings “just don’t look”? that’s how you deal with a nazi. ignore him.

exhibit b:


the berkeley riots

well. i haven’t done a ton of research on this, and my twitter feed was conspicuously silent about this (surprise surprise). i’m really disgusted by this. 

this dude named milo last name is greek and begins with a Y, who is an editor for breitbart and a general right-wing rabble rouser, was scheduled to speak at berkeley, invited by the college republicans. he’s been on tour and in one of his previous engagements, he called out a transgender student by name for ridicule. (hate speech! not cool at all.) students called for cancellation based on his previous inciteful speech, but the president of UCB didn’t cancel. hence a protest. 

here’s what i’ve learned happened based on my minimal research (remember: you can do your own research on this! and make sure to visit multiple sites of varying viewpoints. i visited the NYTimes and the national review.). a professor from UCB pepper-sprayed a woman wearing a make american great again hat. a person in black ran up to a student, said “you look like a nazi”, and pepper-sprayed and beat with a rod. the student who was attacked? definitely not a nazi; he was a muslim from syria. (makes you wonder which side the attacker was actually on…) then there was a fire, and the speaking event was cancelled because people were worried for milo’s safety. 

the best way to have handled this? let those college republicans have their speaker. ignore it completely, or if you do protest, do so legally and peacefully. or go to the speaker, listen to what he has to say, then ask a bunch of questions about why he thinks that. bring your facts and piecharts. but by inciting violence or hate speech, you’re infringing on someone else’s rights. and THAT’S NOT THE POINT of the first amendment.

i saw very little in my twitter feed about this. i remember seeing one tweet about how people were spelling berkeley many different ways and missing the hashtag. but my regular tweeters i follow? not one peep. 

and this is what’s wrong. 


if you support the first amendment, you need to 100% support it – no exceptions. if it’s something you absolutely hate, then you speechify/protest right back, but you cannot punch a person, pepper-spray a person, or threaten said speakers. or, best scenario, don’t give them an audience. that’s the ultimate slap in the face when you think about it. there is nothing more irritating to someone with a very hot-button opinion than no one to listen. 

and, lord help me, i’m ending my argument with a quote from the national review. 

Setting aside the question of political violence, our so-called liberal friends should be asking themselves some uncomfortable questions about their participation in a political movement that feels the need to silence critics and to bully institutions into excluding nonconforming points of view from public forums.

the very thing we dirty hippies are fighting for are what we’re showing to be our downfall, in a way. different points of view in public forums is what shapes our country to what it is. i had a coworker once ask me if i liked talking about politics (in person!), and i said no because my views were completely different from his, and neither of us would change our minds. he said that’s all the more reason to discuss politics. by sharing our viewpoints, we can find a middle-ground and compromise.*

*i am NOT condoning nazism as a valid thing to compromise on. remember: infringing on someone else’s rights and autonomy (like, say, nazi human experimentation or exterminating an entire people based on religion) is not in the cards.