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Hillbilly Elegy Summary

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As J. D. Vance begins the book, he describes the background he came from. The author tells the readers that despite coming from a disadvantaged background, he still managed to study law in a prestigious institution. His originates from the poor neighborhoods of Kentucky.

Though he lived in different places, he mostly identifies Kentucky with his mother Mawmaw after being abandoned by his father. Moreover, the author’s mother had many men but was not able to keep any of them for long.

Here Is the Rest of the Story

Vance’s grandparents (Mawmaw and Pawpaw) had been friends since childhood. Mawmaw got pregnant at 13, and they had to move away from the neighborhood. To fend for themselves, Pawpaw had to secure employment in Ohio.  Later, they moved to a more decent neighborhood. The two had marital issues. They had three children, one of whom is the mother of the author (Bev). The grandparents later lived a happy life and helped the children through their hardships. They had a huge influence on whom Vance became. Vance mostly lived with the grandparents as he avoided his mother Bev who was unstable.

Vance notes that though the Armco Steel company helped people, it also made them not a thing of alternative lifestyles. The children grew without getting an education because they knew they would secure employment there.

After Pawpaw’s death, Vance enrolled n the Marines and was sent to Iraq. However, he still visited Mawmaw. After two years in Iraq, Vince returned and studied at Ohio State University for close to two years. He later went to Middletown to work and save money that could take him through Law School.

In Yale, Vance found it hard to fit because he was often considered inferior by the teachers. While in Yale, he fell in love with a woman called Usha. It is Usha that helped him maneuver through his new-found life in Yale. Vance finally learned how to manage his anger and bitterness issues.

He married Usha immediately after college. Meanwhile, his mother was using drugs again. Vance decided to help her instead of leaving her alone. At the end of the book, Vance appreciates the positive contribution Mawmaw had in his life. She made him a better person. He hopes that he can also become a person that his children can feel comfortable emulating.

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