News by VICE

A best-selling author's life in impoverished, white America

A "Hillbilly Elegy" in Trump country

by VICE News
Nov 3 2016, 12:15pm

J.D. Vance grew up in an Ohio town where roughly 20 percent of kids don’t graduate from high school. After making his way through Yale Law, however, Vance wrote “Hillbilly Elegy,” a memoir that landed on the New York Times Best Seller list this summer. The book introduces readers to a part of the country overlooked by many and looked down upon by most: white, working-class middle America.

While Vance admits to being a “hillbilly,” a term of endearment among family, he also says it can be a cutting insult when used by outsiders. A quarter of his hometown, Middletown, Ohio, lives in poverty, and like many other towns in Ohio, it’s stricken by the heroin epidemic. Overdoses have already surpassed last year, and Vance’s own mother struggles with addiction.

While Vance wrote the book before this year’s election cycle, many readers said it helped them understand the surprising tide of support for Donald Trump and his nationalist rhetoric.

Vice correspondent Dexter Thomas is the first journalist to get a guided tour of Vance’s hometown from the author. The two visit his former home and his family, and give us an insider’s view of Trump country.