It’s amazing how often J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy comes up in conversation. The book struck a nerve. Reading it wasn’t easy because there were so many shades of my own childhood that I felt uncomfortable at several points. Not from the same circumstances as Vance (his family seems to have been better off than mine, from the descriptions), I was more a hillwilliam (shoutout to the author of Verbomania for the portmanteau) than a hillbilly. We weren’t educated people, but my mother’s family wasn’t as poor as the one she married into. We were socially mobile alright, but in the wrong direction. Anyone who hasn’t come home from school to find carp swimming in the bathtub simply can’t understand. The way of the poor is inscrutable, but something Vance gets spot on—it is almost impossible to improve yourself without a leg up.
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