J. D. Vance
Vance in 2017
James Donald Bowman
August 2, 1984
|Education||Middletown High School|
|Occupation||Venture capitalist, author, commentator|
|Employer||Mithril Capital Management LLC|
|Known for||Commentary on rural sociology, poverty, Hillbilly culture|
|Spouse(s)||Usha Chilukuri Vance|
James David Vance (born James Donald Bowman; August 2, 1984) is an American author and venture capitalist known for his memoir Hillbilly Elegy. The book is about the Appalachian values of his upbringing and their relation to the social problems of his hometown. The book was on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2016 and 2017. It was a finalist for the 2017 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. It attracted significant attention during the 2016 election from national media as a window into the white working class.
In addition to the popular attention and critical acclaim the book received, it also provoked criticism from Appalachians who argued that Vance was not an authentic hillbilly or representative of the white working class. These critics allege that in Vance's book the author misleadingly conflates the experience and identity of his hillbilly grandparents, with whom he spent some summers as a boy, with his own. Other critics supported Vance's claims to represent this culture.
Politically, Vance identifies as a social conservative who is nevertheless critical of the contemporary Republican Party's policies, particularly on economic policy, where he argues the Republican platform favors the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the working class. In 2019, Vance converted to Catholicism in a Baptism ceremony attended by various conservative intellectuals, including Rod Dreher. In an interview with Dreher after the ceremony Vance said he converted because he "became persuaded over time that Catholicism was true," and described Catholic doctrine's influence on his political views.
James David Vance was born in August 1984 in Middletown, Ohio, as James Donald Bowman, the son of Donald Bowman and Bev Vance. Vance's only sister, Lindsay, had been born when his mother was 19 years old. His mother and father divorced when Vance was a toddler. Not long after, Vance was adopted by his mother's third husband. Vance's mother struggled with prescription pain medication which led to heroin addiction throughout his childhood. She left behind a string of husbands and offered little stability. As a result Vance and his sister were raised primarily by his grandparents.
Vance was educated at Middletown High School, a public high school in his home town. After graduating, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in Iraq, performing public affairs activities. Vance later received a B.A. degree from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. At Ohio State, he worked for Republican state senator Bob Schuler.
After law school, Vance worked as a principal in a venture capital firm owned by Peter Thiel, known as Mithril Capital Management, LLC. In 2020, Vance raised $93 million for Narya Capital, based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In early 2018, Vance was reported to have been considering a bid for U.S. Senate as a Republican.
Vance is married to one of his former law school classmates, Usha Chilukuri, an Indian-American woman who was a law clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during the 2017–18 term and clerked for then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh in 2014-15. They have a son, Ewan. In August 2019, Vance converted to Catholicism in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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I took a job at the Ohio Statehouse, working for a remarkably kind senator from the Cincinnati area named Bob Schuler. He was a good man, and I liked his politics, so when constituents called and complained, I tried to explain his positions.