*Finalist for the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize*
*Instant New York Times Bestseller*
*Named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, The 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.
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).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Sarah Smarsh’s memoir of growing up poor in rural Kansas is an important work of testimony, but it’s also a pleasure to read. Smarsh is a beautiful writer. She addresses her book to the imaginary child she chooses not to bring into a world that increasingly marginalizes and vilifies families like Smarsh’s: manual laborers, hand-to-mouthers, uninsured country folk. Heartland is less focused on the politics of white poverty than other books on the subject. Instead, Smarsh uses her brilliant memory and powers of expression to document her relatives’ lived truths—and to expose systems of oppression and injustice.
"Class is an illusion with real consequences," Smarsh writes in this candid and courageous memoir of growing up in a family of working-class farmers in Kansas during the 1980s and '90s. A writing professor and journalist whose work has appeared in the Guardian and the New Yorker, Smarsh tells her story to her inner child, whose "unborn spirit" allows Smarsh to break the cycle of poverty that constrained her family for generations. Smarsh was born to a teenage mother, and the women in her family were all young mothers who hardened and aged early from the work it took to survive the day-to-day. Smarsh writes with love and care about these women and the men who married them, including her father and Grandpa Arnie, but she also lays bare their hardships (for many poor women, "there is a violence to merely existing: the pregnancies without health care, the babies that can't be had, the repetitive physical jobs") and the shame of being poor ("to experience economic poverty... is to live with constant reminders of what you don't have"). It is through education that Smarsh is able to avoid their fate; but while hers is a happy ending, she is still haunted by the fact that being poor is associated with being bad. Smarsh's raw and intimate narrative exposes a country of economic inequality that "has failed its children."
Customer ReviewsSee All
I feel the book is too long and repetitive! I read most of the book then skipped to nearer the end & realized to my dismay I should not have wasted my money. Hotshots
A must Read
This book is a fantastic and real life depiction of what it is like growing up poor in rural America. It effectively debunks the idea of the America Dream and sheds like on systematic poverty, racism and structureal discriminataion existing in socio econoic sytem in the US. One of the best books I ever read! Thanks Sarah!
Loved this memoir! So very relatable!