Hillbilly Elegy

This study guide will help you analyse the introduction to the book Hillbilly Elegy. A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. You can also find a summary of the text.

Presentation of the text

Title: Hillbilly Elegy. A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2017)
Sender: James David Vance
Genre: Book introduction

James David Vance (b. 1984) is an American venture capitalist and the author of the autobiographical book Hillbilly Elegy. A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, which was on The New York Times best seller list for two years in a row.

The text is accompanied by a video about people in the Appalachian region who have been treated as outsiders by most Americans, and who were often portrayed in mocking ways. The video reveals that despite common prejudices about them, these people have contributed to American culture and expansion.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 


Sometimes writers appeal to emotions in an attempt to stir emotions in readers and achieve their intention. In the text, Vance offers many personal details about his past and his family and connects them with different emotions. For example, he mentions: “I nearly gave in to the deep anger and resentment harbored by everyone around me”.  The feeling or anger and resentment can appeal to people who are in similar situation, but also to those that want to understand what it means to be poor and lose hope.  

Another example is: “My primary aim is to tell a true story about what that problem feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.”. This alludes to feeling desperate and hopeless and further encourages readers to empathise with how many poor people feel.

When talking about to the community he grew up, Vance appeals to positive emotions to counteract common negative perceptions about them: “Americans call them hillbillies, rednecks, or white trash. I call them neighbors, friends, and family”. By talking about friends and family, he alludes to feelings of love, affection, and compassion, feelings that readers can relate to even if they did not grow up in a poor environment.

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Hillbilly Elegy

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  • 6/3/2021