The bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy” left out a lot of hillbillies. Big thanks to the Chicago Tribune for giving me a chance to sing their praises with the below essay.
I have a lot in common with J.D. Vance, author of the new memoir “Hillbilly Elegy.” We both grew up dirt poor in hillbilly households. We both ended up at Ivy League schools — Yale for him, Harvard for me — and somehow we both made our way into America’s urban, professional class. While he and I are cut from the same cloth, we look at our kinfolk, blue-collar people in the Appalachian South, and see wildly different things.
In his best-selling book, Vance shines an unforgiving light on hillbilly culture, using his own family as examples. I’ll never forget the description of his uncle taking an electric saw to a man, nearly killing him because the fella called him a son of a b—-, or the scene in which his grandparents trash a pharmacy after a clerk chastised their boy. To Vance, as a child, this was normal behavior. To the rest of us, these people seem unhinged.