Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

January 7, 2020 - Comment

*Finalist for the National Book Award* *Finalist for the Kirkus Prize* *Instant New York Times Bestseller* *Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, New York Post, BuzzFeed, Shelf Awareness, Bustle, and Publishers Weekly* An essential read for our times: an eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in America that will deepen our understanding of

*Finalist for the National Book Award*
*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize*
*Instant New York Times Bestseller*
*Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, New York Post, BuzzFeed, Shelf Awareness, Bustle, and Publishers Weekly*

An essential read for our times: an eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in America that will deepen our understanding of the ways in which class shapes our country and “a deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight”.*

Sarah Smarsh was born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side, and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side. Through her experiences growing up on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita, we are given a unique and essential look into the lives of poor and working class Americans living in the heartland.

During Sarah’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, she enjoyed the freedom of a country childhood, but observed the painful challenges of the poverty around her; untreated medical conditions for lack of insurance or consistent care, unsafe job conditions, abusive relationships, and limited resources and information that would provide for the upward mobility that is the American Dream. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves with clarity and precision but without judgement, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country.

Beautifully written, in a distinctive voice, Heartland combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, challenging the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less.

“Heartland is one of a growing number of important works—including Matthew Desmond’s Evicted and Amy Goldstein’s Janesville—that together merit their own section in nonfiction aisles across the country: America’s postindustrial decline…Smarsh shows how the false promise of the ‘American dream’ was used to subjugate the poor. It’s a powerful mantra” *(The New York Times Book Review).

Comments

Anonymous says:

Memoir of the year Last year I read Sarah Smarsh’s serialized long-form story in No Depression magazine about Dolly Parton. The writing in that piece was so good that I began following the author on Twitter, mostly so I could express my praise and appreciation directly to her and find out when she was publishing more work. That’s where I learned about Heartland and its impending publication. I preordered my copy and waited expectantly for delivery, hoping it would be as good as I wanted it to be.It’s…

Anonymous says:

Superficial and Monotonous This book should have been more interesting and moving than it was, given its subject: hardworking and basically honest people who can’t seem to get ahead no matter how hard they work. It wasn’t. Smarsh’s description of her family plods on with monotonous (and repeated) descriptions of their characters, daily lives and predicaments, but never comes close to creating any emotional engagement with them. Smarsh’s narrative device–telling the story as if she were talking to a spiritual unborn…

Anonymous says:

I never do Amazon comments… but… I’m also a fifth-generation Kansan, except that I’m 67 years old and my ancestors moved here before Kansas was a state.I was disappointed by this book. What was her point? What does our society owe her: she seems to have done very well by its good intentions but where does she think the state/nation should intervened to keep her kin from destroying themselves? I’m a bona fide liberal, but her family seems to have done everything it could to crush her.I’m glad she escaped…

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