A stamp on the cover of the book I read said, "A great insight into Trump and Brexit". Great way to pull in the reader, but slightly misleading, because this is not about politics, but an insider's story of what it is like to live the 'hillbilly' life - the white working class life of those who live within range of the Appalachian mountains, a geographical and cultural regions in the east USA stretching from Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia in the south to the southern tip of New York state.  The author's family comes from Kentucky, his grandparents moving north to the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, where the main employer at that time was a steel factory. The factory was initially 100% American owned, and over time was taken over by foreign interests, creating the situation that Trump so successfully campaigned against in his election policies. JD Vance, no win his early thirties, is in what appears to be the unusual position of having escaped the poor white working class hillbilly tag of his family by firstly, becoming a US Marine, then a Yale Law School graduate, now successful lawyer - the American Dream complete. This allows him to stand back from his own community and upbringing, giving a perspective to the reader, and more importantly putting him on his own voyage of self discovery.

In this memoir, he closely examines his family's origins in Kentucky, the move north, his own upbringing with his drug addict mother and absent father, his two siblings and of paramount importance his grandparents who ended up fulfilling the parent role in his difficult and compromised childhood. In particular he explores the culture of the hillbilly, the majority of whom are of Scots-Irish stock, their work and life ethic, how they are quite different from many other areas and populations of the USA, what makes them tick, and of most import, the derision, scorn and prejudice constantly targeted at them. In reading this I couldn't help but think that they have been put in the same category as gypsies, or indigenous working class minorities in many countries. In the western world economies of neo-liberalism, where profit is king, often there is little understanding of how these societies tick, and little compulsion to try.

So the situation in the Appalachians is not unique to the USA, but also in my own country, and I imagine in most other Western countries.  I loved this book for so many reasons - Vance's own family and life story, the sadness and hopelessness that is pervading daily life, how he managed to find himself and climb out of the vortex he was being sucked into, opening up his heart and soul to the anonymous reader, and from a sociology or anthropology point of view, the world he is innately part of that has made him the man he is, and will forever be a part of him. 

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