Andover Libraries’ June Book Club

June reading is "Hillbilly Elegy"; meeting on 27th.

By Janet Moore

The Book Club meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Bachelder Library in East Andover. Meetings begin at 7 PM, and everyone is welcome to join in the discussion. June’s meeting is on the 27th, so grab a book from either library and come talk with us!

Despite its publication way back in 2016, JD Vance’s memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” is enjoying a new round of acclaim as the author has chosen to run for Congress in Ohio. All politics aside, let’s delve into the June book club selection that is subtitled “A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.”

As a self-proclaimed hillbilly from Jackson, Kentucky, whose family migrated north to Ohio after World War II and became part of the wave that the manufacturing and steel industries attracted, Vance seemed to live from crisis to crisis. His grandparents were the first settlers in Middletown, headed for the Armco plant, and appeared very much like any other middle class family, except for the screaming and fighting. The house was a battle zone, and Vance’s grandparents were an endless source of verbal abuse for the extended kin, and back in Jackson for the summers.

But that was how they’d always operated – you protected your family above all with loud love, taught the kids to fight, and expected the next generations to follow suit – with one exception. Education was a must-have, and by the time JD was in school, if he were to move onto a higher plane of economic life, he had to study and learn. Neither fights nor stepfathers nor divorce nor moves nor drugs were allowed to interfere with forward motion.

It’s a remarkable story, all the more so for the love and protectiveness that seemed to settle each crisis. What Vance discovers at Ohio State, but even more so at Yale Law School after the Marines, is that even family can’t make up for a lack of worldly knowledge. I’ll leave that for you to discover. And pay attention to his analysis of why it’s so hard for the middle classes to get it in gear and achieve forward motion.