Tag Archives: Education

Review: Hillbilly Elegy – A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy
Hillbilly Elegy
By J.D. Vance
Harper Paperbacks, 9780062300553, (Paperback) May 2018, 288pp.

The Short of It:

An important read, even if you think you won’t be able to relate to it.

The Rest of It:

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis–that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck. – Indiebound

I had been avoiding this book when it was selected by my book club. Truthfully, I wasn’t interested in it because I knew it would hit too close to home, and it did. I didn’t grow up in the same region as Vance but I could identify with nearly everything Vance encountered growing up: addiction, abuse, poverty, and having what seemed like no other options for living.

But I could also identify with a need to belong, a need to succeed and the well-meaning intentions of some of the folks around me. Vance tells his story with brutal honestly but his story is peppered with hope throughout, which makes this memoir a very interesting read about the long-term effects of class decline on future generations and it begs the question, how can we fix it?

The full impact of this memoir didn’t hit me until the last third of the book. That is when Vance gets to the point. The never-ending cycle of poverty for some, make it impossible for them to rise above it. How could they without the realization that there is more out there?  If the norm is poverty and abuse, and it’s all they see, what motivation exists to change their situation for the better?

I know some people will argue with that logic. That people have a choice and they choose to be poor but for many, they grew up that way. They were never shown or given the opportunity to live differently. Vance suggests that the people who manage to pull themselves out of this cycle are the ones who were introduced to something different. I agree. It’s the number one reason why I work with teens and the homeless. I had people in my life that showed me a different way and that made all the difference. I want to be that person to someone else.

Hillbilly Elegy is a powerful read and if you don’t want to read it or think you can’t relate to it in some way, try, because it’s important to know how other people live. For our society to flourish we need role models to show us a better way because no matter where you stand politically, brokenness is evident all around us if you look.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: I Am Malala

I Am MalalaI Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai
(Little, Brown and Co., Hardcover, 9780316322409, October 2013, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Malala Yousafzai was just a young girl on a field trip for school when she was shot point-blank in the face. This book is about that day, the events leading up to it and the role it played in her struggle for education equality.

The Rest of It:

My book club selected this book back in January to be read in October. That was before Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize and before her gunman had been identified, so imagine our surprise when she was back in the news by the time we met to discuss the book. Timing, it’s everything.

I didn’t know much about Malala prior to reading this book. I do recall the shooting in 2012 and some of the details behind it, but other than that, not much. In case you’re like me, I’ll give you a little info. As a young girl, Malala lived in the Swat Valley, a province in Pakistan. Her father ran a school for both boys and girls but as you can imagine, most girls in that region were kept home to help around the house or married young to start their own families. Education was not a priority for young girls and Malala took it upon herself to make sure that young girls got the same education that boys did.

This presented a problem for her father. Threatened and told to close his doors, he began to worry about making ends meet. Without female students, he would not be able to keep his doors open. Knowing this, Malala did what she could to support education for all children and this angered many in their town, including the Taliban which eventually led to the attempt on her life. Amazingly, the gunshot wound to her head, did not cause permanent brain damage but called for quite a bit of physical therapy. This required her to be moved to a London hospital and after much discussion, a decision was made to move the rest of the family there as well.

Instead of being fearful of what could happen to her in the future, she used the events of that day to her advantage and became even more vocal, knowing that at some point the Taliban could succeed in taking her life. However, this mattered little to her. What mattered more, is that education be accessible to ALL who wanted it. Through her efforts, she’s been awarded numerous prizes for her humanitarian efforts. An impressive list but especially so given her young age.

I was surprised at how readable the book is. With every page, you are reminded of Malala’s youth. She’s a young girl like any young girl, watching popular TV shows and wanting to wear make-up and try new hairstyles. She’s very likable and the book is written simply, without a lot of historical background. This is a plus as well as a minus. A plus because almost anyone can read the book but a minus because if you are looking to learn more about that region of Pakistan or the Taliban itself, you won’t find it here.

Since this is not a book I would have normally picked up on my own, I was hoping to get a little more insight into that part of the country but even though I did not find it, I still enjoyed reading about this remarkable young woman.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.