J.D.’s wife, formerly one of his fellow students at Yale Law School. Usha and Vance started dating while they were still in the program, a relationship that eventually led to marriage. Vance frequently turns to Usha for guidance in navigating the upper-middle-class environment in which he now lives. Though she respects his working-class background, she helps him leave behind the bad habits instilled in him by hillbilly culture, such as his tendency to quickly respond to adversity with intense anger. When they were first becoming serious as a couple, they had to work through Vance’s poor conflict resolution skills; at the first sign of an argument, he would shut down and remove himself from the situation. This was because he had only ever seen adults abuse one another (verbally or physically) during disagreements, and he didn’t want this to happen with Usha. Fortunately, Usha helped him see that this was not a productive way to approach difficult situations, ultimately bringing him around to the idea that it is okay to encounter conflicts in a relationship and that healthy conversation is, in fact, always an option.
The timeline below shows where the character Usha appears in Hillbilly Elegy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.