Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
This is a memoir about the poorest white people of America, written by J. D. Vance; one of the few to make it out.
These are the working poor, called “white trash” or “rednecks”, who voted for Trump; who believe in “Fake News” and who have completely given up hope. How did this happen?
The author gives a lot of insight into how despair can become a way of life and what long term consequences it will lead to. What kind of culture will develop if people can't see the point of trying; if they think newspapers lie; if they believe universities only let the right kind of people in?
The book is (as it says in the subtitle) about a culture in crisis, and I think it is essential reading to understand what is happening «out west». One of the best things about this book is that the author, although now a successful lawyer, grew up dirt poor; this story is his story. He tells about abandoned town centres, workers out of work and a drug addict mother who went from boyfriend to boyfriend. She always moved in with them immediately and the violence that followed scarred the kids for life.
Vance writes that this community is characterised by what psychologists call «learned helplessness» - the belief that nothing can help you out of the misery. His family and childhood friends not only avoid, but even have aversion towards the things that could help you, like education.
Read it and weep. I did (only a little bit, I am a MAN after all).
White Trash by Nancy Isenberg is another excellent book on the same theme.