I pride myself on reading books that are relevant and significant. That’s not to say I don’t like an occasional beach book but my ears perk up when I hear somebody really debating about a book. Discussion books are my favorite.
When my Minneapolis book group talked about reading “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance, the conversation got so heated that a few of my friends refused to read it. Apparently this book was going to explain to my liberal minded friends just how the hell Donald Trump took the election away from HRC by appealing to the blue collar workers that live in the Rust Belt states.
My own political views tend to be liberal but they have been challenged over the last few years as my adult children have become political. My son leans to the right and my daughter to the left. In my typical consensus building style, I try to hear them both out and in the process I have sharpened my own view which has been influenced by both of them but has shifted me from the middle left to more smack dab in the middle.
“Hillbilly Elegy” is a memoir written by JD Vance who grew up in Middleton Ohio to an alcoholic and drug abusing mother in a poor and dysfunctional home. The first part of the book paints the picture of his young life and the challenges that he overcame. Ultimately he moves in with his grandparents and it’s with this stable home environment that he finally reaches his potential. He earns good grades, goes on to college and Yale Law school and now finds himself among the country’s elite.
It’s not until the second half of the book that his disillusionment with Democratic “Obama” politics becomes clear. He worked himself through college via the military and low paying entry level jobs but saw other people abusing the welfare system. And honestly, his rant felt like one I would give to my own children. It’s basically to work hard and rely on yourself and not the government to hand things out to you.With hard work and dedication you can achieve anything. Who can disagree with that?
So, the question is: Does this book explain why Trump won the election? The answer to me is yes. I think it explains how an entire culture has become disillusioned with the state of the country and blamed one leader or one party. And since the election was so close, those folks that want less government and more capitalism got what they wanted. And they got a tough talking renegade leader to see them through this change.
The book is entertaining, easy to read and offers an insightful view of a community of people that we don’t often get to read about. Don’t be too alarmed that it’s overly political and frankly, even if it is somewhat political, I have learned from my children that it’s okay to talk it out. In the end your own views may become a little more precise. And through a little bit of heated debate you make just find them changing ever so slightly.