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Charlotte Talks: 'Hillbilly Elegy' Author J.D. Vance On His Upbringing And The American Dream

Monday, October 22, 2018

Meet J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy before his visit to Charlotte. His bestselling book is now being turned into a movie.

Listen to part two of this show: What Does It Mean To Be Appalachian?

J.D. Vance grew up in a poor Rust Belt city in Ohio and an Appalachian town in Kentucky and went on to write a number one New York Times bestselling memoir about his family's story called Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.

His grandparents left Kentucky's Appalachia region in search of a middle class life up north in Ohio. They were somewhat successful in becoming more upwardly mobile, but that was only part of the story. Vance writes that they were never able to completely escape poverty and struggled with drug abuse, alcoholism and trauma.

Hillbilly Elegy provided a peek inside the struggles of white working class families and a case study of rural America in decline. It seemed to touch on many of the hot button issues of income inequality, working class anger, and a cultural divide that came out of the 2016 Presidential election.

Now the book is being made into a movie by director Ron Howard. In advance of his visit to Charlotte, guest host Dr. Michael Bitzer talks with Vance about his story, the impact of his book, and how he sees some of those themes playing out now in politics and society.


J.D. Vance, Author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Related event:

J.D. Vance is speaking to a sold-out crowd for The Learning Society at Queens University of Charlotte on Tuesday evening, Oct. 23rd at Knight Theater. Details

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Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.