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'Hillbilly Elegy': Who is JD Vance? True story of Appalachian values and tragedy of author's Kentucky family

It will be interesting to see how Netflix expresses this very deep story rooted in history, politics and culture
JD Vance (Getty Images)
JD Vance (Getty Images)

Netflix is set to release 'Hillbilly Elegy', a movie based on the New York Times Bestseller of the same name authored by JD Vance. The story is about a former Marine named JD Vance played by actor Gabriel Basso who comes back home to Southern Ohio and navigates life after reuniting with his Appalachian family. You can read more about the upcoming film here. So, who is the real JD Vance? Here is the true story of Appalachian values and the tragedy of his Kentucky family.

James David Vance, known as JD Vance is not only an American author but is also a venture capitalist and is widely known for his novel titled 'Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis'. The memoir went on to grace The New York Times Best Seller list in 2016 and 2017 and even was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Vance had grown up in Ohio, in a Rust Belt town and according to NPR, his memoir speaks of his experiences in "social isolation, poverty, drug use and the religious and political changes in his family and in greater Appalachia."

The article details more of his life revealing that Vance had spent summer in Jackson, Kentucky with his grandmother and great-grandmother until he was 12 years of age. He later was able to afford college by joining the Marines and had attended Ohio State University followed by Yale Law School. It was during his first year at Yale, that his mentor Amy Chua had encouraged him to write his memoir.

The author received critical and supportive views when it came to his memoir — some believing he didn't express an opinion on an authentic experience, others believing he did. In 2016, his memoir had gained a lot of attention during the election.

In the NPR article, when asked what he was going "to do" in the election, Vance said, "My current plan is to vote either third party or, as I joked to my wife, I might write in my dog because that's about as good as it seems. But, you know, I think there's a chance if I feel like Trump has a really good chance of winning, that I might have to hold my nose and vote for Hillary Clinton. But at the end of the day, I just feel like she is so culturally disconnected from the people that I grew up around that it would be very, very hard for me to cast my ballot for her. So ultimately I think I'll probably vote the third party."

In his interview with NPR, Vance speaks of intergenerational poverty, resentment at rich people and his family. He had an alcoholic grandfather and a mother that was addicted to drugs. He revealed that when he had reached the age of 14, he was hanging out with children that were doing drugs, explaining that he even started "to experiment" himself. He further made it a point to note that his grandmother had caught on to his vices "much earlier than a lot of kids' parents would have".

Vance even provided insight as to why he named his memoir 'Hillbilly Elegy' - calling it an "insider's term" he revealed that his grandmother had told him that they were allowed to call themselves hillbillies, but nobody else was allowed to do so. "So it's very much a term of endearment for the people who use it about themselves and their families," he said adding that the term is " definitely pejorative" and that he would be offended if someone called him that and meant in seriously.

It will be interesting to see how Netflix expresses this very deep story rooted in history, politics and culture. Netflix's synopsis reads, "JD Vance (Gabriel Basso), a former Marine from southern Ohio and current Yale law student, is on the verge of landing his dream job when a family crisis forces him to return to the home he’s tried to forget. JD must navigate the complex dynamics of his Appalachian family, including his volatile relationship with his mother Bev (Amy Adams), who’s struggling with addiction. Fueled by memories of his grandmother Mamaw (Glenn Close), the resilient and whip-smart woman who raised him, JD comes to embrace his family’s indelible imprint on his own personal journey."

Catch 'Hillbilly Elegy' on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.