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

Sarah Smarsh. Scribner, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3309-1
“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.” Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/11/2018
Release date: 09/18/2018
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-5082-6531-3
Library Binding - 415 pages - 978-1-4328-5956-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-6740-9
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