J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy spent nearly two years on The New York Times’s best-seller list and was hailed as a look at Appalachia’s lost generation. Now this caustic memoir is getting a screen adaptation from Netflix and the Oscar-winning director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code). Screenwriter Vanessa Taylor, who co-wrote the 2018 best-picture winner, The Shape of Water, has adapted the text.
Hillbilly Elegy is Vance’s story of growing up dirt poor in the Rust Belt, where he watched jobs and opportunity fade away. Opioid addictions and violence were routine. Paths to conventional success were few. Upon graduation from high school, however, Vance made it into the Marines, and from there went on to Ohio State University, followed by Yale Law School. Now a venture capitalist, Vance credits his success to a series of mentors, none of whom was more important than his churlish, gun-toting grandmother Mamaw, to whom he dedicated the book.