A memoir refers to a set of written down events that
are a collection of memories that took place in an individual’s life.
Apparently, the book Hillbilly Elegy
is written by J.D Vance and is about the events that took place in his life.
Vance narrates his upbringing, his family background and his relationship with
his family. The book discusses the Appalachian values which Vance upheld as he
grew up and how the benefits related to the social problems that were part of
his hometown. The book explains the hardships that Vance has been through and
how hard it was for him in his early years (Vance 23). Even though Vance was
raised up in Middle-town, Ohio, his ancestors hailed from a different place,
Breathitt County in the critical state of Kentucky.
When growing up, Vance had an exceedingly hard time
because his mother was always on drugs. He kept shifting from one area to
another, and she did not have a permanent residence. He could not comprehend
why his mother was always shifting, but as it was, he was relatively young
then. The frequent relocations prompted Vance to spend all his summers at his
grandparents’ house in Kentucky until he was attained twelve years. While
residing there, Vance was made to understand the importance of Appalachian
values (Vance 37). The Appalachian virtues included loyalty, togetherness, and
respect for people including the dead. As he spent his summer holiday at
Kentucky, he noticed that every time a hearse passed by the street, everybody
would stop. He asked his grandmother about the intriguing, and she responded by
saying that, as the hill people, the community respected their dead.
Vance discusses the differences between living with
his grandparents’ and other family relatives as well as residing with his
mother. When he was at home with his guardian in Ohio, life seemed lonely and
scary. Apparently, despite his mother bringing and introducing numerous men in
his life, none of them settled with her for long. They either briefly dated or
casually got married. Being a kid, life proved to be very stressful back then.
His life lacked stability, and it was hard for him to identify with his mother.
People viewed him as an abandoned son because he had no clue about his father.
But in Kentucky, people viewed her differently. Her grandmother was the most
skilled auto mechanic in the entire town (Vance 48). People recognized Vance as
her grandson. In his grandparents’ house, he felt loved and he was happy that
there were people that he could identify with.
The primary reason why the author got his way up was
that of his grandparents who eventually made up. He usually deemed them of the guardians
that was the ever-encouraging. He alleged that economic insecurity takes only a
negligible percentage of the problems bedeviling the community. Apparently, the
significant issue highlighted by Vance is culture (Vance 54). The author reminisced about his duties as
grocery attendant in a store in Kentucky. He later watched resentfully as his
neighbors chattered on their cell phones as they carried on with the checkout
Besides, Vance advanced my identity and enhanced my
understanding of the American politics. For instance, many political scientists
have typically used their millions of words to explain how the South and
Appalachia transformed from being Democrats to Republicans in a short while.
Notably, Vance relayed a message of personal responsibility and tough love. He
lost patience with a childhood friend who alleged that he quit his employment
because he would rise at dawn to blame the “Obama economy”.
Nonetheless, Vance has both fanatics and critics in equal measure. His head-on
encounter with a subject that was deemed as taboo was relatively admirable. His
critiques were generously crafted. He noted that the hillbilly culture was not
destroyed by laziness, but “learned helplessness” as argued by Martin
Seligman. It was a fatalistic belief that was born with intense diversity that
anything could not alter it.
As Vance continued with his stay in Kentucky, he spent
most times with his caring Uncles Teaberry and Pet. His uncles also upheld the
Appalachian Values and knew how important they are. They were great
storytellers, and Vance liked listening to them. But there is this one story
which uncle Pet told him of “Big Red” that fascinated Vance. It was a
truck driver who insulted Pet’s mum. He was very offended and being an
Appalachian; he beat up the man until he was unconscious. According to Vance
(59), even though the Appalachian values were outstanding and a mark of the
community’s identity, what was ironical is that the same benefits condoned
beating up a person if they insulted another. It was clear that there were no
consequences for violent behavior. The tales that Vance was fed with hardly
mattered then because he was relatively young. He was in support of the members
of his family because they seemed to enforce Hillbilly justice.
Vance grew up
with an understanding that violence was acceptable if it was used to defend
justice. The reason was that his family from Kentucky framed it as a way of
executing impartiality. In his recent trips to Jackson, Kentucky, Vance was
saddened by what he saw. Vance (83) alleged that Appalachia was headed for the
worst because of the people’s involvement in drug abuse. The buildings appeared
to be dilapidated, and the society was full of despair because of poverty that
had engulfed the whole area. The public-school system was failing, and there
was also a prescription drug epidemic. These occurrences saddened Vance because
Jackson had played a significant role in the development of his life. It was a
place that he would freely call home.
Throughout the memoir, Vance has made his audience
feel like part of his life. He has helped his spectators identify with the
struggles that he has encountered all his life. A lot of people had undergone
life’s hurdles before they got to where they are today. Vance had helped the
audience understand that even though he did not have a stable family when he
was growing up, he still made it in life. He found an option which was his
grandparents who helped him identify and know himself better. In his book,
Vance narrates his experiences when he was growing up (Vance 89). He explains
about his relatives and how they helped him when growing up. He says that the
best thing that ever happened in his life was having his grandparents with him.
He explains the history of his grandparents, from when became romantically
involved in 1946, to how they got their first child and all the events that
took place afterward.
Vance explains the struggles that his grandparents
went through in their lives. They got their first child at a very early age.
His grandmother was thirteen years old while his grandfather was 16. Sadly,
their first child passed on after his birth.
Later in their marriage, Vance explains the difficulties that his
grandparents faced in their marriage. His grandfather would even arrive home
drunk, and this made his grandmother exceedingly angry. At one point, his
grandmother vowed to kill him if he ever came back while drunk. Vance explains
the struggles that each of his extended family members faced. The history of
his family makes it much easier to identify with him and the struggles that he
went through (Vance 102). The audience can understand what went wrong and the
effects each situation had with Vance. He tells us the reasons he lived with
his grandparents and explains all the struggles he had to go through with his mother.
There have been a lot of authors who have written
memoirs about their lives. They have written about all events that have taken
place in their lives including the private events. An example of such a writer
is Oprah Winfrey. The story of Vance makes people relate more and better to
him. People can understand that even the rich and famous have gone through part
of the struggles that other people go through. Oprah’s story is also
unfortunate and encouraging at the same time. At some point, it seems similar
to Vance’s. They all discuss the struggles that they have been through when
young. Both stories involve parents. What is fascinating about their
chronologies is that despite all the problems they faced in life, they
eventually made it (Vance 113). Other writers who would want to write their
memoirs should get courage from this. They should understand that talking about
their life and struggles encourages their audiences.
The memoir by Vance helped me broaden my own identity
by understanding and accepting myself. He helped understand that it is okay and
it’s not out of the norm for a family to have family issues. The book
encouraged me because it made me realize the importance of resilience. No
matter the challenges someone is going through in life, they are not supposed
to lose hope. Vance helped me understand that accepting one’s self is a step
toward becoming a more exceptional person. It is very encouraging for me to see
that there are problems in life that I have gone through similar to what Vance
had to go through. Divorce is one of the issues that most of the children in
America go through. It is highly prevalent, and some of the children are unable
to overcome it.
The book by Vance has a tremendous impact on people
especially youths and children who may be undergoing challenges that they feel
they cannot make it through. Other writers should learn from him and write more
memoirs about themselves to encourage other people who may be feeling
discouraged. To help people know that life is bigger than the problems they are