It was mostly a Q & A session masquerading as a speech from the nationally acclaimed author who grew up in Middletown because that’s the way J.D. Vance likes it.
The best-selling writer, whose “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” was a primer for national political pundits leading up to — and especially after — President Donald Trump’s election, confessed Thursday night his love of public interaction over making a speech.
“I’ll make my remarks relatively brief because I always enjoy the part where I can have a conversation with people and they can ask me questions and we can have a little bit of a dialogue,” Vance confessed to the sell-out crowd of nearly 700 at the Miami University Middletown campus.
The 32-year-old Vance, who grew up here — graduating from Middletown High School across North Breiel Boulevard from the campus — said the idea for his book came from questioning his ascendancy from low-income, Appalachian roots to Yale Law School.
“Why did I feel so out of place? Why are people here (Yale) so unlike me?” Vance said.
Previous sociological and political books on America’s largely white, lower income class tended to examine the population, its culture and its struggles through the conventional prisms of either liberal or conservative ideology. But Vance said he wanted to write a book that included both perspectives but most importantly, his own experiences.
“People are much more complex,” he said of the limitations that come with ideologically themed books. “I decided to make these problems real by writing about real people,” including the struggles within his family and his personal challenges growing up.
“I was hoping somebody would pick up the book and think to themselves ‘wow, this is a complicated problem and these are complicated people — and most of all these are good people,’” said Vance.
The unusual formula worked as the book shot to the top of best-selling lists, putting the Middletown native, Ohio State University graduate and former U.S. Marine on numerous TV appearances including Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC.
Vance recently moved back to Ohio from California to launch a non-profit organization.
Vance will also be one of two featured speakers Saturday at the Butler County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner, which also includes Congressman Warren Davidson, R-Troy.