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October 2018 Indie Next List
“A classic is born! Sarah Smarsh takes us on a five-generation trek through the hardscrabble life of her Kansas childhood in the ’80s and ’90s. Just as J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed addressed the uncomfortable topic of poverty in this country, Heartland successfully gives the reader an in-depth look at impoverishment in the bread basket of America. She writes with a crystal-clear and objective voice, never giving in to self-pity or malevolence. Indeed, tongue-in-cheek humor and tenderness often shine through. This book is a must-read, a milestone in the life of our country.”
— Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA
Finalist for the National Book Award*
*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize*
*Instant New York Times Bestseller*
*Named a Best Book of the Year 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 and "a deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight".*
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.
Beautifully written, in a distinctive voice, Heartland combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, challenging the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less.
"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