Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

May 28, 2020

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of a favorite memoir, Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin….nostalgic, thoughtful, and memorable nonfiction.

If you are missing baseball this season because of Covid-19, this book might be for you!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin (cover) Image: an empty professional baseball stadium

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, Biography, Baseball, Nostalgia,

My Summary:

“From loyal baseball fans, the refrain “Wait Until Next Year!” can often be heard after suffering a disappointing loss. In fact, it was after the Dodgers’ loss in Game 7 of the recent World Series that a fan vehemently shouted these exact words captured by a reporter’s microphone and camera. At that time, I was reminded of Goodwin’s Wait Till Next Year that had been on my TBR list for some time and which had been declared one of my husband’s favorite reads last year. In honor of the recent, well-played, and highly spirited 2017 World Series, I decided it’s timely to read and review this popular memoir.

In Wait Till Next Year, Doris tells of meeting baseball heroes, of nail-biting games, of having to confess at Confession that she wished the other team’s players would be injured so Dodgers could win, of the exciting World Series win in 1955, and of her sorrow as the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1957.  She was so devastated by the loss of her team that she avoided baseball for years after the Dodgers left, and when she was convinced as a young adult to attend a Red Sox game, she transferred her loyalties, started keeping score again, and passed on her love of the game to her son. In addition to the loss of the Dodgers, she also tells of the loss of her mother at an early age.”

Nostalgic, family-centered, and loads of fun for baseball fans …..

Continue reading my review of Wait Till Next Year to see what I loved.

QOTD: Have you read Wait Till Next Year or is it on your TBR?

If you’re thinking ahead for Father’s Day, this might be a great gift for a baseball fan!

The Ride of a Lifetime: A Review

March 20, 2020

The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

Welcome Guest Reviewer: Abby

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Abby and GoofyHello from Seattle, Washington! My name is Abby, and I’m a cousin of Carol’s! Actually, my dad is Carol’s cousin, so I guess that makes us 1st cousins once removed. I posted on Instagram that I had just finished a book when Carol asked me to do a bit of a review for her blog.

I wish I could say I’m an avid reader, I’m not, but I’m trying to do better. My goal for 2020 is simple: to read one book a month. Thankfully, my husband heard that goal prior to January and stocked me up at Christmas with some of the books that were on my wish list!

I tend to gravitate to biographies, leadership books and inspirational reads with an occasional fiction thrown in the mix. As a life-long Disney fanatic and Disneyland Park enthusiast it’s no surprise that The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger was at the top of my “to read” list for 2020.

The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger (cover)

Background Image Source:  Brian McGowan on Unsplash

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Organizational Leadership, Business Biography

Summary:

In The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger weaves his philosophical bits and pieces of wisdom by telling the stories of how he began at ABC Network and made his way up the food chain to become the CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 2005.

Abby’s Thoughts:

Abby seated (arms thrown in the air) with Cinderella's Castle in the backgroundIger’s story, The Ride of a Lifetime, is meaningful for us Disney fanatics – in my opinion – he will go down in history as the CEO that saved our beloved Disney brand after Michael Eisner’s leadership lacked that Disney magic. Eisner lead Disney as a corporation instead of the magical creative universe that it is, and that lead to movies that completely flopped, and the launch of Disney California Adventure, which was also a bit of a miss.

Eisner also landed himself in some hot water with the board of directors becoming enemies with Roy Disney and other board members that had been running Disney for quite some time. The Ride of a Lifetime highlights why some fans became disenchanted with Disney and why park attendance, design, and movies surged under Iger’s leadership.

Upon his appointment to the CEO Chair, Iger’s top three priorities were:

  1. To increase the amount of high-quality branded content created
  2. To advance technology both in the ability to create more compelling products and to deliver those products to consumers
  3. To grow globally

Abby standing (arms thrown in air) in front of the Disney Railroad StationThe Ride of a Lifetime then walks us through Iger’s acquisition strategies, and how he befriends Steve Jobs who, at the time, owned Pixar Animation Studios. Iger’s dream was for Pixar to rejuvenate Disney Animation Studios. Disney needed the creative jolt that Pixar brought and after the acquisition, you saw a huge jump in quality of product from Disney Animation.

Also of note is the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, the Star Wars Universe and Lucas Film and last, but not least, 21st Century Fox.

These acquisitions are probably the largest ear marks of Iger’s career, but the rejuvenation of Disney California Adventure, Hong Kong Disney, and the opening of Shanghai Disney will be notable as well since it brought that much-needed magic back to the parks!

Abby with her Mickey Mouse hat (and a backpack) stand on Main Street, Disney

 

Recommended: Overall, I think The Ride of a Lifetime is a solid read. If you like reading about leaders and what they do to make their world go around, it’s worthwhile to pick it up. As a Disney fanatic I digested the facts as quickly as I could, and couldn’t put it down, but everyone might not be as hungry for this information as I am.

 

 

Robert Iger’s 10 Leadership nuggets are quoted in this Forbes review in December of 2019. I think you’ll find the quotes thoughtful and they definitely highlight the take-a ways from Iger’s book.

Thanks for the review, Abby!

 

The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger (cover) Image: Iger seated in a chair, hands casually crossed

The Ride of a Lifetime Information Here

Meet the Author, Robert Iger

 

Robert Iger is chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company and he previously served as president and CEO beginning in October 2005 and president and COO from 2000 to 2005. Iger began his career at ABC in 1974, and as chairman of the ABC Group, he oversaw the broadcast television network and station group, cable television properties, and guided the merger between Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company. Iger officially joined the Disney senior management team in 1996 as chairman of the Disney-owned ABC Group and in 1999 was given the additional responsibility of president, Walt Disney International. In that role, Iger expanded Disney’s presence outside of the United States, establishing the blueprint for the company’s international growth today.



QOTD!

Are you a Disney fanatic like Abby?

Do you enjoy books about interesting and innovative leaders?



ICYMI

Spring 2020 TBR



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Hillbilly Elegy #throwbackthursday

March 5, 2020

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m starting with my review of Hillbilly Elegy. Enjoy!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (cover)

Genre/Categories: memoir, nonfiction, biography, sociology, poverty

My Summary:

Hillbilly Elegy is a thought-provoking, powerful, and sincere memoir about growing up in a white working-class family in a poor Rust Belt town in Ohio. A Yale Law School graduate and a former marine, J. D. Vance is originally from Kentucky’s Appalachia region. His grandparents who were “dirt poor and in love” moved the family to Ohio in the hopes of escaping devastating poverty. Throughout the memoir, we learn that despite a geographical move, the family was never able to entirely escape the hillbilly culture of alcoholism, poverty, abuse, and trauma. Even though J. D. Vance beat the odds and graduated from law school, he still struggles to come to terms with his chaotic family history. The memoir is filled with detailed, humorous, dramatic, and colorful examples of what his life was like.

Favorite Quote:

“I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact
that spiritual and material poverty has
on their children.”

Click here to continue reading my review….

QOTD: Have you read Hillbilly Elegy or is it on your TBR?

Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit: A Review

March 3, 2020

Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit by Eliese Colette Goldbach

Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit by Eliese Colette Godbach (cover)

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, Unions, Steel

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Thanks #netgalley #flatironbooks for a free E ARC of #rustamemoirofsteelandgrit in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Eliese shatters the stereotype…….Have you ever thought of a steelworker as a college-educated, twenty-something female?

For Eliese, the “stinky” local steel mill in Cleveland, Ohio represents everything from which she is trying to escape. Although it was never her dream job, practicality demands that she needs job security and a good salary. In Rust, Eliese shares about her childhood, her Christian roots and parents’ values, applying to the mill, receiving a good paycheck, facing daily danger in the mill, forming unexpected friendships, working and maintaining relationships with mental illness, gender equality, and an abundance of political opinions.

My Thoughts:

(more…)

Born a Crime: A Review

February 21, 2020

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (cover)

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, South Africa

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Compelling, humorous, and inspiring…

Trevor Noah’s life in Apartheid South Africa began with a crime. He was born to a white father and a black Xhosa mother. This had to be kept a secret because the relationship was punishable by five years in prison. In a racially divided country, Trevor spent most of his early childhood living behind closed doors because his light color would certainly give away the circumstances of his birth and place his parents (who were living separately) in danger. If the government discovered the circumstances of his birth, they could even take him away from his mother. At the end of Apartheid and later in his childhood, Trevor Noah faced the challenge of deciding with which group he would identify: white, black, or colored (mixed). He felt like an outsider for most of his childhood and young adult years. Trevor enjoyed a close relationship with his risk-taking, rebellious, and spiritual mother. He was intuitive and street smart but also incredibly mischievous. The essays that document his coming of age are humorous, insightful, honest, and at times disturbing.

Amazon Star Rating (February): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

(more…)

1st Line/1st Paragraph: Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City

 January 21, 2020

1st Line/1st Paragraphs

I’m linking up this week with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph of the book you are currently reading.

Open book on the sand with a blurred out ocean background: words: First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros

I’m pleased to share the first paragraphs of Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga.

Is this on your TBR or have you read it?

Amazon Summary:

“In 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called for and four recommendations were made to ensure the safety of indigenous students. None of those recommendations were applied.

More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home because there was no high school on their reserves. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred indigenous site. Jordan Wabasse, a gentle boy and star hockey player, disappeared into the -20° Celsius night. The body of celebrated artist Norval Morrisseau’s grandson, Kyle, was pulled from a river, as was Curran Strang’s. Robyn Harper died in her boarding-house hallway and Paul Panacheese inexplicably collapsed on his kitchen floor. Reggie Bushie’s death finally prompted an inquest, seven years after the discovery of Jethro Anderson, the first boy whose body was found in the water. But it was the death of twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack that foreshadowed the loss of the seven.

Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against indigenous communities.”


Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Indigenous People, First Nations, Canada, True Crime

1st Line/1st Paragraphs From Chapter One:

Arthur Street runs east to west in a long, straight ribbon through the downtown area of the Fort William region of Thunder Bay. Arthur Street is devoid of charm–it’s a stretch of drive-thru restaurants, gas bars, and grocery stores, and cars in a hurry to get anywhere but here.
Turn off Arthur, north onto the Syndicate, and you’ll find the Victoriaville Centre, a poorly planned shopping mall with a 1970s vibe. The mall is riddled with empty stores and stragglers having a cup of coffee before heading over to the courthouse across the street. Parts of the mall have been taken over by mental health clinics, an art gallery, and an Indigenous health centre. Upstairs is the main administration office of Nishawbe Aski Nation (NAN), a political organization representing forty-nine First Nations communities encompassing two-thirds of the province of Ontario, spanning 543,897.5 square kilometres.
There is one elevator and it behaves like an old man. It grumbles as the door shuts, and it shakes and heaves its way slowly upstairs. A sign posted near the buttons says, “When the elevator breaks down, call this number….” When,” not if.
This was where I found myself one grey day in April 2011. I was there to see Stan Beardy, NAN’s grand chief.

Seven Fallen Feathers has been on my nonfiction radar for a while now. I placed it on my Winter TBR and it’s time to tackle this one. This first caught my eye because I had read Killers of the Flower Moon, and it appears to have similar themes and features journalistic investigation. Last, I’ve received many recommendations and I enjoy narrative nonfiction, so  I’m anticipating a compelling read.



QOTD:

Do you like narrative nonfiction?

Is Seven Fallen Feathers on your TBR or have you read it?



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Just Mercy Review: In Honor of MLK Jr and His Work

January 20, 2020

I've decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. ~MLK

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) and his work, I’m reposting an updated review of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson from my September 14, 2018 post…

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.



September 14, 2018

An inspirational memoir of courage ….. determination ….. vision …..

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, African-American, Judicial System, Criminal Procedure, Politics and Social Science

Summary:

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

In this compelling and engaging memoir, Bryan Stevenson shares true stories about founding the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice established to defend those most desperate and in need (the underrepresented, poor, wrongly condemned, women, and youth trapped for life in the criminal justice system). In addition to detailing his experience as a young lawyer confronting political machines, fighting prejudice, and accepting challenging cases, Stevenson works determinedly and thinks deeply about mercy, true justice, and compassion.

Listen to Bryan Stevenson summarize his ideas in his own words: Bryan Stevenson TED Talk

Just Mercy Movie Trailer

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

(more…)

1st Line/1st Paragraph: The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11

 January 7, 2020

1st Line/1st Paragraphs

I’m linking up this week with Vicki @ I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a meme every Tuesday to share the First Chapter/First Paragraph of the book you are currently reading.

First Paragraph

I’m pleased to share the first paragraphs of The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff. If you experienced 9/11, you know this will be an informative, heartfelt, and tragic read. If you did not experience 9/11, this is a must-read.

From Amazon:

“The first comprehensive oral history of September 11, 2001—a panoramic narrative woven from the voices of Americans on the front lines of an unprecedented national trauma.

Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, which traced the rise of al-Qaeda, to The 9/11 Commission Report, the government’s definitive factual retrospective of the attacks. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through the voices of the people who experienced it.

Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and bestselling historian Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, Graff paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights, and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York City, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker underneath the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard the small number of unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United Flight 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid.

More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son working in the North Tower, caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from rushing into the burning building to try to rescue their colleagues.

At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.”


The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

The Only Plane in the Sky

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, U. S. History, Terrorism

1st Line/1st Paragraphs From Chapter One:

Aboard the International Space Station
On August 12, 2001, NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson arrived at the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. He would live and work aboard the Space Station for 125 days. On September 11, 2001, he was the only American off the planet.
Commander Frank Culbertson, astronaut, NASA: On September the 11th, 2001, I called the ground, and my flight surgeon Steve Hart came on. I said, “Hey Steve, how’s it going?” He said, “Well, Frank, we’re not having a very good day down here on Earth.” He began to describe to me what was happening in New York—the airplanes flown into the World Trade Center, another airplane flown into the Pentagon. He said, “We just lost another airplane somewhere in Pennsylvania. We don’t know where or what’s happening.”
I looked at the laptop that has our world map on it, and I saw that we were coming across southern Canada. In a minute we were going to be over New England. I raced around, found a video camera and a window facing in the right direction. About 400 miles away from New York City, I could clearly see the city. It was a perfect weather day all over the United States, and the only activity I could see was this big black column of smoke coming out of New York City, out over Long Island, and over the Atlantic. As I zoomed in with a video camera, I saw this big gray blob basically enveloping the southern part of Manhattan. I was seeing the second tower come down. I assumed tens of thousands of people were being hurt or killed. It was horrible to see my country under attack.

Well….this is going to be a difficult read. I was on a similar nonstop United flight from Boston to LA about three weeks before this event, and thinking about that sends chills through me. I have vivid memories of 9/11 and I’m eager and honored to hear the oral history compiled in these pages.



QOTD:

Where were you on 9/11?

Is The Only Plane in the Sky on your TBR or have you read it?



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Review

August 18, 2017

Do you love memoirs?

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (cover)

Genre: a memoir, nonfiction, biography, sociology, poverty

“I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact
that spiritual and material poverty has
on their children.”

Summary:

Hillbilly Elegy is a thought-provoking, powerful, and sincere memoir about growing up in a white working-class family in a poor Rust Belt town in Ohio. A Yale Law School graduate and a former marine, J. D. Vance is originally from Kentucky’s Appalachia region. His grandparents who were “dirt poor and in love” moved the family to Ohio in the hopes of escaping devastating poverty. Throughout the memoir, we learn that despite a geographical move, the family was never able to entirely escape the hillbilly culture of alcoholism, poverty, abuse, and trauma. Even though J. D. Vance beat the odds and graduated from law school, he still struggles to come to terms with his chaotic family history. The memoir is filled with detailed, humorous, dramatic, and colorful examples of what his life was like.

Amazon Rating (August): 4.4 Stars.

My Thoughts:

Book clubs and friends could discuss Hillbilly Elegy for hours. The following personal thoughts represent only a few of the many discussion topics this book offers.

Love

The most important thought for me is that the impact of his grandparents’ love affected his life. All through school, he was a bright student; however, when his grades started falling in middle school he states that it wasn’t the teachers or the school that was at fault, rather it was the chaos at home (living with his mom) and in his community that affected his school performance. After he went to live with his grandparents officially, this is what he writes: “What I remember most of all is that I was happy–I no longer feared the school bell at the end of the day, I knew where I’d be living the next month, and no one’s romantic decisions [mom’s rotation of boyfriends or husbands] affected my life. And out of that happiness came so many of the opportunities I’ve had for the past twelve years.” J. D.’s description of the stability his grandparents offered him caused me to reflect on the importance of the home in a child’s life and education. His grandparents were certainly less than perfect; in fact, they had serious flaws which would make one question his placement in their home. However, J. D. Vance lied to the caseworkers so that he would be ensured of being placed in their home because he didn’t think he could make it in life without their love and the stability they offered. Children can endure a lot if they feel loved. This doesn’t make the neglect right but love does make a difference. This reminds me of the story of Jeanette Walls in The Glass Castle…even though she suffered extreme neglect, I think she felt that both parents loved her which most likely made a great difference in her ability to achieve success. Another similarity between the authors is that both Jeanette and J. D. had an older supportive and nurturing sibling which added to the love and stability in their lives.

Upward Mobility and the Family

Hillbilly Elegy offers an in-depth look at the struggles of America’s white working class. J. D. Vance describes one incident when he was in a primary grade (I think 2nd but I don’t have the book here to look it up) that helped the reader think about how important family support is in upward mobility. He recounts sitting in class while the teacher was asking students to solve mental math problems. He felt great about his answer and was delighted when the teacher recognized his brilliant thinking. However, the next student to offer an answer explained how “times” could be used to reach the same answer. J. D. was shaken. How did this child know about “times” when he had never heard about “times.” He knew it couldn’t have been taught at school because he would’ve remembered and learned it. After some thought, he realized that the child who knew about “times” must have learned it somewhere other than at school and realized he must have learned it at home. He offers this profound reflection, “There existed a massive ignorance about how to achieve white-collar work. We didn’t know that all across the country–and even in our hometown–other kids had already started a competition to get ahead in life.” As a result of his classroom experience, J. D. went home and asked his mom and grandparents why he didn’t know about “times,” and grandpa spent the weekend teaching him “times” and division. His point in explaining the situation is to demonstrate that the competition starts at home with the support and “extras” that parents offer. He realized as early as 2nd grade that his poor community was already finding it difficult to compete in this area.

No Blame for Public Schools

J. D. Vance is clear that neither public schools nor public school teachers were to blame for his declining grades in middle and high school. He describes the situation as follows: “We didn’t live a peaceful life in a small nuclear family. We lived a chaotic life in big groups of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.” He describes again and again how this chaos affected his education, “The constant moving and fighting, the seemingly endless carousel of new people I had to meet, learn to love, and then forget–this, and not my sub-par public school, was the real barrier to opportunity.” Officially moving in with his grandparents provided the stability he needed to succeed in school.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

J. D. Vance relates throughout his stories the pessimism that permeates his community. Not only pessimism but blame. People he knew were always blaming someone else for their situation (the president, the government, taxes, etc.). When he came home from the military, one of his first observations was that he felt like an outsider, “For the first time in my life, I felt like an outsider in Middletown. And what turned me into an alien was my optimism.” He goes on to reflect that perhaps getting out of the community and entering the military and going away to college was the action he needed to take to achieve success, “It’s no surprise that every single person in my family who has built a successful home…married someone from outside our little culture.” The culture strongly defined by pessimism.

The Message From Home: Yay for grandparents!

Even though his chaotic childhood was filled with turmoil and trauma, J. D. Vance states, “Despite all the environmental pressures from my neighborhood and community, I received a different message at home [his grandparents’ home]. And that just might have saved me.”

Companion Reads

As I read Hillbilly ElegyI thought of two memoirs (among several) where the authors were able to rise above poverty and their communities: The Glass Castle and We Beat the Streets.  In The Glass Castle, we also see the hillbilly culture mentioned as Jeanette’s family moved in with her father’s mom in Appalachia. From this move, we see that the way her father treated his children could in part be due to influence from the hillbilly culture. We Beat the Streets is a middle school read and while teaching I often referred my boys who were reading at grade level to this inspirational story about three kids who “beat the streets’ and became doctors. Theirs wasn’t a hillbilly culture but they were from a poor black community.  Information about The Three Doctors Foundation can be found here.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot more to talk about in Hillbilly Elegy! If you read it, I’m certain you’ll need to discuss it. In fact, at times your discussions might be heated because of different reactions to one person’s analysis of a culture in crisis. I love that the insights and ideas in this book can be applied to communities around the United States. The discussion is much broader than simple hillbilly culture.

Finally, this book gave me additional insight into the chaotic lives of students at my Title 1 school. It’s difficult to learn when children are preoccupied with what drama is going on at home and in the community.

Recommended for those working with poor communities, for readers who enjoy thought-provoking themes and rich discussion possibilities, and for fans of memoir. Hillbilly Elegy is representative of books that have the ability to build empathy and understanding of different cultures and communities.

My Rating: 4 stars

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Hillbilly Elegy (cover)

Hillbilly Elegy Information Here

Meet the Author, J. D. Vance

Author, J.D. Vance

J. D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and is a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm. Vance lives in San Francisco with his wife and two dogs.



QOTD!

Are you a fan of memoir? Please share your reflections on Hillbilly Elegy in the comments section. Did any of the themes mentioned challenge you in your thinking? How does this book compare with other memoirs you’ve read with similar themes? In addition, I’d love to hear what you’re reading.



Looking Ahead:

Next week, Reading Ladies will reflect on our reading roots…and in two weeks we’ll review Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate if you’d like to “buddy read.”  In three weeks I’ll review the long-anticipated (at least by me!) Glass Houses, a new installment in the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny (release date: 8/29 …. happy birthday to me!)

Before we Were Yours

Before We Were Yours Information



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



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