Area best-selling author talks path from turbulent childhood to success with Megyn Kelly

J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” and a Middletown native, speaks to the crowd during the 2017 Alex & Lena Casper Memorial Lecture on March 9 at Dave Finkelman Auditorium at Miami University Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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J.D. Vance, author of the best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” and a Middletown native, speaks to the crowd during the 2017 Alex & Lena Casper Memorial Lecture on March 9 at Dave Finkelman Auditorium at Miami University Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

J.D. Vance, the Middletown native who turned the story of his turbulent childhood and family dysfunction into a best-selling book, was near emotional collapse when his path out of the rust belt took him to Yale Law School, he said during a television interview broadcast over the weekend.

“I was ... as close to a nervous breakdown as I've ever had, just the stress of law school, mom had just had a heroin overdose, I was in love with this girl, Usha, but I didn't quite know how to be in love with her in the way that I wanted to be,” Vance said on NBC News’ Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.

Vance’s book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” chronicles the hard-luck history of his white working class family from Kentucky to Ohio.

The book’s timing coincided with the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency. Kelly asked Vance if some of Trump’s perceived sexist talk and sometimes-crude language is taken differently by his most ardent supporters.

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“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance

“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance
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“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance

“I've criticized a lot of Trump's rhetoric and I'm not a big fan of some of the things that he's said, but there was almost a sense where people were offended by Trump not because of the substance of what he said, but because of how he said it,” Vance said. “‘Good society people should not talk in this way.’ And I just never quite understood that — that criticism.”

Vance, 32, and Usha Chilukuri Vance are now married and expecting their first child, a boy. They relocated from San Francisco to Columbus, where he was named a partner in an investment firm. Vance also started a non-profit, Our Renewal Ohio, to take on some of the state's pressing issues, he told Kelly.

“The things that I care most about are not in San Francisco,” he said. “They're not in Silicon Valley. The things that I care most about are the opioid crisis, about solving some of the issues that I write about in the book. And you can only do that I think when you're actually close to the problems, and when you're actually on the ground trying to help.”

Vance responded to Kelly’s question if he has plans to run for public office: “I'm very flattered when people ask me ... And you never say never. But it's just not something that I think about doing right now.”

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