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?

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…)

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

*this post contains affiliate links

January 21, 2019

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



September 14, 2018

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

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

just mercy 2

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

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: filming in Montgomery.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are unfamiliar to me, I am mesmerized by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and support. Sometimes when I read, the experience is like looking into a mirror and other times it’s like looking through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciate the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy has been on the best seller list for a couple of years, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who are challenged by reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

Your Voice. I’d like to invite reviewers to leave a review link for Just Mercy in the comments if you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

just-mercy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Mercy

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

bryan stevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie in the works

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia

Review: Just Mercy

September 14, 2018

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

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

just mercy 2

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

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: filming in Montgomery.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are complex for me, I am mesmerized by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and support. Sometimes when I read, I look through a mirror and other times I look through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciated the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy has been on the best seller list for a couple of years, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who are challenged by reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

Your Voice. I’d like reviewers to leave your review link in the comments if you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

just-mercy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

bryan stevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie in the works

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“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



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read all but three on the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman and Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (author of Peace Like a River). I’m planning an extra blog post soon highlighting three recently read ARCS.

lieutenant's nurse

virgil wander



A Link I Love

Are you a fan of the Enneagram types or Winnie the Pooh? Check out this post that explores the Enneagram type of each character in the Hundred Acre Wood:  Kendra Nicole: My World In Reviews: The Enneagram in the Hundred Acre Wood.



Sharing is Caring

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



 Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy issue-centered, thought-provoking memoirs? Have you read Just Mercy?
(kind and considerate comments are appreciated….others will be deleted or not approved)

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you next Tuesday for Top Ten Tuesday!



***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



Let’s Get Social!

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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.