There can never be too many critiques of J.D. Vance from people who actually grew up in Appalachia rather than suburban Cincinnati:
Our communities are also unfortunately home to something Vance conveniently ignores about the politics of the region and that of many regions outside of Appalachia that affect families in poverty: mostly GOP politicians who run campaigns full of false promises to bring back private-sector jobs and revitalize local economies, and then turn their backs on them when elected to cater to the party as they oppose anti-poverty programs, the expansion of health-care coverage, increasing education funding, and promoting limited public works and economic expansion in communities thirsty for jobs and stability.
“Hillbilly Elegy” echoes common GOP talking points — prioritizing personal responsibility over community care. It is meant to celebrate personal mobility, but ultimately valorizes Vance’s mobility at the expense of others who grew up like us or him. The only way to be successful in Vance’s narrative is to make it off the mountaintops and out of the isolation of the hollows into those elite spaces said to hold the “best and brightest.” To mark Vance’s journey as unique and hard-won, “Hillbilly Elegy” doesn’t grapple with the structural obstacles and economic exploitation existing for decades in Appalachia. Instead, he calls his peers back home lazy and fatalistic, and ignores those who go out of their way to make it possible for other people to succeed despite not having the opportunities themselves.
Look, if everybody in West Virginia would just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get one of the 200 slots Yale Law offers every year and then move to Silicon Valley to work for a hedge fund vampire we wouldn’t have had any of these problems. Why is that so hard to understand?