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J.D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy and After

Evening Program with Book Signing

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1W0036

When J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis was published in the summer of 2016, it generated an immediate and powerful impact on both readers and critics, making its mark on bestseller lists and in conversations of all kinds as America moved toward the next presidential election.

To provide the core of Hillbilly Elegy, Vance drew on his grandparents’ experience as transplants from rural Kentucky to a steel town in Ohio in search of an escape from generations of poverty. That family story expanded into a vivid and intimate portrait of a whole strata of Americans whose struggle to improve their lives was undercut by entrenched patterns of alcohol abuse, domestic violence, opioid addiction, lack of education, and other factors—and for whom opportunities for social and economic mobility were rarely within their grasp.

On its release, the New York Times called Hillbilly Elegy “a compassionate, discerning sociological analysis of the white underclass that has helped drive the politics of rebellion, particularly the ascent of Donald J. Trump.” Two years later, the social, cultural, and economic issues Vance examined from his family’s vantage point have become even more critical flashpoints in an intense national debate about the collapse of the traditional American dream and what, if anything, might take its place.

Vance, now a venture capitalist in Ohio, has widened his focus from writing about Americans trapped in the decaying Rust Belt to actively providing new opportunities for them in the technology industry. In 2017 he joined Washington-area business leaders Steve Case, Ted Leonsis, and Donn Davis as part of the investment firm Revolution. Among their initiatives are efforts to encourage tech investors to expand their sights beyond the East and West Coasts to overlooked rural areas, where traditional jobs are disappearing and few new industries are taking their place.

Vance discusses how his best-seller grew from personal memoir into a story with national resonance, his experience in writing the book and its effect on his career and his life. The ticket price includes a pre-signed copy of the new paperback edition of Hillbilly Elegy.

National Museum of the American Indian
Rasmuson Theater
4th St & Independence Ave SW
Metro: L'Enfant Plaza