Relentless forces and bootstraps

Sam Venable shares anecdotes and some personal reactions to Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance in this episode of the Books Sandwiched In podcast (edited from his January 25 remarks). This compelling memoir looks at the struggles, attitudes and dysfunction in an economically declining area of America. Vance was born in rural eastern Kentucky, but grew up largely in Rust Belt Ohio. Although his grandparents succeeded in generational upward mobility—they moved north for manufacturing jobs that are now disappearing—the family continued to struggle in the middle class with the same issues that they had tried to leave behind.

A newspaper columnist and author of twelve books, Venable is a native of Knoxville and a graduate of the University of Tennessee. He has won more than three dozen national and regional writing awards, including the national feature writing award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his 2014 series, "Fragments of Hate."