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

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth from Scribner
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth from Scribner (click images to enlarge)

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

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Manufacturer Description

*Finalist for the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize*
*Instant New York Times Bestseller*

*Named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, Shelf Awareness (Nonfiction), Bustle, and Publishers Weekly (Nonfiction)*

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.

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.

A beautifully written memoir that combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, Heartland examines the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less.

“A deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight, 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).

An Amazon Best Book of September 2018: In this furious, regretful, and loving memoir, Sarah Smarsh examines the life of America’s rural poor through the microcosm of her extended family. Growing up working-class white on the Kansas plains, Smarsh enjoyed the freedom of a country childhood, but witnessed the hideous legacy of poverty in her relatives’ untreated illnesses, unsafe job conditions, abusive marriages, and addictions to everything from cigarettes to opioids.

Smarsh, now a writer and professor, created a stable professional life for herself using the same work ethic she saw in her parents, with talents they themselves might have developed had they been able to continue in school. What made the biggest difference: federal grants for first-generation students, and her determination to avoid early pregnancy. Her life’s work, she felt, “was to be heard,” rather than to become a mother, though the daughter she might have had feels so real that Heartland takes the form of an anguished letter to her.

For Smarsh, one of the cruelest blows the poor suffer is society’s assessment that they somehow deserve less than others. “People of all backgrounds experience a sense of poorness—not enough of this or that thing that money can’t buy. But financial poverty is the one shamed by society, culture, unchecked capitalism, public policy, our very way of speaking.” Heartland will make you check your privilege before you refer to anyone as “white trash” or “red neck,” and if you’re standing at a polling station, you might hear Smarsh’s voice in your ear. Her portrayal of what it feels like to be poor in America will persuade you that it’s not a fate any child should be born into. —Sarah Harrison Smith, Amazon Book Review



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