Books

Heartland

In this memoir, Sarah Smarsh gives an eye-opening look at working-class poverty in the American Midwest.

Sarah Smarsh

During Sarah Smarsh's turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the forces of cyclical poverty and the country's changing economic policies solidified her family's place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country and examine the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. Her personal history affirms the corrosive impact intergenerational poverty can have on individuals, families and communities, and she explores this idea as lived experience, metaphor and level of consciousness.

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 as the daughter of a dissatisfied young mother and raised predominantly by her grandmother 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. Combining memoir with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, Heartland is an uncompromising look at class, identity and the particular perils of having less in a country known for its excess. (From Simon & Schuster)

From the book

I heard a voice unlike the ones in my house or on the news that told me my place in the world.

It was your voice: a quiet and constant presence, felt more often than heard. You were like those stars that, for some reason, a person can see only by looking to the side of them. I was just a kid, but I knew the other voices were wrong and yours was right because my body felt like a calm hollow when you echoed in it.

I didn't try to figure out what you were. I just knew you. Often, what grown-ups say is mysterious, children readily understand. Eventually, in my mind, you took the form of a baby that I either would or wouldn't have.


From Heartland by Sarah Smarsh ©2018. Published by Simon & Schuster.

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