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

Sarah Smarsh



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Scribe Publications
15 October 2018
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- I really enjoyed this. And I say that with a heavy sense of knowing and gratitude to my own parents, and an awareness of the contrast with my own economic position in the world. Sarah Smarsh broke the cycle of generations of men behaving badly and of poor choices made by women. At the same time her memoir is heartfelt, honouring her people and her roots as she lays bare the trajectory of lives where hard work very often is not enough to overcome the inequalities that the mere randomness of birth confers. My own grandmother's first marital home had a dirt floor, a concept that is entirely beyond my comprehension. I initially began reading this with the aim of gaining greater understanding of disenfranchisement in today's geopolitics. But it's turned out to be a very human and warm memoir. Sarah, talking with her Grandma about death: 'She told me seriously that she wanted to be buried without a bra. "I hate the damn things" she said. "You can burn 'em at my funeral." Craig Kirchner


Born a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product of generations of teenage mothers on her maternal side, Smarsh grew up in a family of labourers trapped in a cycle of poverty. She learned about hard work, and also absorbed painful lessons about economic inequality, eventually coming to understand the powerful forces that have blighted the lives of poor and working-class Americans living in the heartland.

By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at daily life in America. Combining memoir with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, Heartland is a searing, uncompromising look at class, identity, and the particular perils of having less in a country known for its excess.
By:   Sarah Smarsh
Imprint:   Scribe Publications
Country of Publication:   Australia
ISBN:   9781925713633
ISBN 10:   1925713636
Pages:   304
Publication Date:   15 October 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Sarah Smarsh has covered socioeconomic class, politics, and public policy for The Guardian, VQR,,, The Texas Observer, and many others. She is currently a Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. A former professor of nonfiction writing, Smarsh is a frequent speaker on economic inequality and related media narratives. She lives in Kansas. Heartland is her first book.

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

`[A] powerful message of class bias ... A potent social and economic message [is] embedded within an affecting memoir.' - Kirkus, starred review `Candid and courageous ... Smarsh's raw and intimate narrative exposes a country of economic inequality that has 'failed its children.'' - Publishers Weekly, starred review `You might think that a book about growing up on a poor Kansas farm would qualify as 'sociology,' and Heartland certainly does ... But this book is so much more than even the best sociology. It is poetry - of the wind and snow, the two-lane roads running through the wheat, the summer nights when work-drained families drink and dance under the prairie sky.' - Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed `Sarah Smarsh - tough-minded and rough-hewn - draws us into the real lives of her family, barely making it out there on the American plains. There's not a false note. Smarsh, as a writer, is Authentic with a capital A ... This is just what the world needs to hear.' - George Hodgman, author of Bettyville `Sarah Smarsh is one of America's foremost writers on class. Heartland is about an impossible dream for anyone born into poverty - a leap up in class, doubly hard for a woman. Smarsh's journey from a little girl into adulthood in Kansas speaks to tens of thousands of girls now growing up poor in what so many dismiss as 'flyover country.' Heartland offers a fresh and riveting perspective on the middle of the nation all too often told through the prism of men.' - Dale Maharidge, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning And Their Children After Them

  • Short-listed for National Book Awards: Nonfiction 2018
  • Short-listed for The Kirkus Prize 2018

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