Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy - Book Review

In the very liberal county that I live in the school board believes that dumping money at the achievement gap problem is the solution. They have been doing this for a couple of decades with the problem exacerbating rather than improving. One of the school board members protested and refused to run for reelection because she believed that without the support of the family from which the student comes from there is only so much a school and the teachers can do. The bleeding heart liberal view that some people need handouts to survive or the conservative view that people should simply lift themselves by their bootstraps are both negative and the solution to the problem lies perhaps somewhere in the middle.

The hand wringing that the half of the country went through after the elections and our collective disbelief at the victory of the foul mouthed reality TV star who is the perhaps the biggest moocher by the sheer amount of government handouts boggles our mind. Why? Most of us live in bubbles that only reinforce our own world view perhaps.

What does any of this have to do with this book?

J.D.Vance the author of this book was a sought after voice around the time of elections. He is from one the communities that seemed to overwhelmingly support Trump in the election - the Applachia hill country which has suffered enormously during the past couple of decades when the manufacturing moved overseas. Places which have overwhelmingly fallen into the opioid/heroin addiction.

The book is at once sad, moving and extremely uplifting all at he same time. How someone with great odds managed to succeed with the help and support of his grand parents when his mom got afflicted with the addiction that is common in those parts. For a young person surviving to deal with the day to day problems and come out on the other side and manage to get an ivy league education is nothing sort of miraculous.

A steady and supportive presence of an adult is required for success more than money. Who does not like a rags to riches success story? Almost all of us have a soft corner for people who overcome their adversities and come out on the other side successful don't we? Intact families and supportive adults will do more for the success of a youngster than money. Government policies most often ignore this important aspect when they come up with programs aimed to help.

The book is extremely well written in a matter of fact tone. We have all heard of the saying "Fact is stranger than fiction" When I finished this book I could understand a bit more why some people supported Trump so much. He projects this machismo image , does not worry too much about what comes out of his mouth and does not seem too to care too much about what elite people think of him. This is appealing to a group of people who are sick and tired of being condescended to and who most often settle scores with the fist and hitting and fighting is a part of life.

Obama might be the polar opposite of what Trump stands of but how many people really understand what he or Hillary Clinton had to say. Trump did not say anything new, he put it more in layman terms what Obama said 8 years ago. Obama put his fingers on the problem and pretty much forgot about it. Hillary seemed to not grasp it all. Sad!

If not for the political significance of the book, read the book for the gripping narrative and the true story. You won't be disappointed.

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