Heartland
A perfect companion to Evicted and Nickel and Dimed, Heartland reveals one woman's experience of working-class poverty with a startlingly observed, eye-opening, and topical personal story.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.

Heartland Details

TitleHeartland
Author
ReleaseSep 18th, 2018
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781501133091
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography

Heartland Review

  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    Heartland belongs on the shelf next to books like Desmond’s Evicted, Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, and Ehrenreich’s Nickle and Dimed. Smarsh’s book provides a strong voice for and about breaking the destructive cycles of families, the economics of class, and the fact that birth should not be the reigning mark of future prospects. Smarsh is a talented writer who tells the story of her grandparents, parents, and extended family with clarity and warmth.For the full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/0 Heartland belongs on the shelf next to books like Desmond’s Evicted, Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, and Ehrenreich’s Nickle and Dimed. Smarsh’s book provides a strong voice for and about breaking the destructive cycles of families, the economics of class, and the fact that birth should not be the reigning mark of future prospects. Smarsh is a talented writer who tells the story of her grandparents, parents, and extended family with clarity and warmth.For the full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/08/18/he...For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog
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  • Brad
    January 1, 1970
    As a lifelong Kansan who came from a working class family in Topeka but knew nothing of the life of the rural parts of my state, I declare this essential reading. Essential not just for Kansans like me, but for so many who have no idea what rural poverty looks like. Sarah Smarsh recounts the story of her family--most notably the women who held the family together--while also weaving it into the larger dynamics of an increasingly crueler American capitalism that began with Reagan and continues to As a lifelong Kansan who came from a working class family in Topeka but knew nothing of the life of the rural parts of my state, I declare this essential reading. Essential not just for Kansans like me, but for so many who have no idea what rural poverty looks like. Sarah Smarsh recounts the story of her family--most notably the women who held the family together--while also weaving it into the larger dynamics of an increasingly crueler American capitalism that began with Reagan and continues to present day. Bold, honest storytelling and cultural critique, I hope this book finds the audience it deserves.
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  • Janilyn Kocher
    January 1, 1970
    Heartland is a great read. I enjoyed Smarsh's family history immensely. However, I'm not buying her assertion that she grew up in poverty. I suppose my definition of poverty differs from hers. She always had a roof over her head and food to eat. Smarsh never had to live in a car or under a bridge as many people have. From my perspective, Smarsh was rich in love and perseverance that she learned from her family. Various family members spent a fortune on booze and smokes over the years, which beli Heartland is a great read. I enjoyed Smarsh's family history immensely. However, I'm not buying her assertion that she grew up in poverty. I suppose my definition of poverty differs from hers. She always had a roof over her head and food to eat. Smarsh never had to live in a car or under a bridge as many people have. From my perspective, Smarsh was rich in love and perseverance that she learned from her family. Various family members spent a fortune on booze and smokes over the years, which belies her poverty premise. The author also has a tendency to circumvent a person's accountability for his/her own actions. Instead she assigned blame like it was the government' fault, or the system, or a doctor; such as the case of her stepmother's sitatuon. She avoids stating the obvious: each person is responsible for his/her own actions. I also don't agree with some of her reflections pertaining to history and politics. Overall, it's a very good memoir. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance read.
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  • Kayo
    January 1, 1970
    Wasn't what I was expecting. Not up to Nickel and Dimed, not that I compared. Not thrilled that I could't give a review for months after I got it from Netgalley! Thanks to author, publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it hadno bearing on the rating I gave it.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    Many years ago, I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and it knocked my socks off. When I saw Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland had been favorably compared to it and recommended to people who liked it, I jumped at the opportunity (provided by Scribner and NetGalley) to read it in exchange for my honest review.First of all, thanks a LOT, Sarah! I was awake most of the night reading, then thinking about this book! Like The Glass Castle, so many things in it resonated strongly with me while it both e Many years ago, I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and it knocked my socks off. When I saw Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland had been favorably compared to it and recommended to people who liked it, I jumped at the opportunity (provided by Scribner and NetGalley) to read it in exchange for my honest review.First of all, thanks a LOT, Sarah! I was awake most of the night reading, then thinking about this book! Like The Glass Castle, so many things in it resonated strongly with me while it both entertained me and made me THINK. (My favorite kind of book)Sarah had a chaotic childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, when the changing economic policies in the U.S. solidified the her family’s position as part of “the working poor.” The ginormous issue here is the class divide in the U.S., and Smarsh lays out the horrors in (as the subtitle says) “A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.”Sarah’s family “consisted mostly of single moms and their daughters.” For generations, teenage girls in the family have given birth and then endured mostly horrific marriages/relationships: “Every woman who helped raise me, on my mom’s side of the family, had been a teenage mother who brought a baby into a dangerous place.” For Sarah, that meant being keenly aware that something was wrong: “The defining feeling of my childhood was that of being told there wasn’t a problem when I knew damn well there was.Sarah’s determination to get out, to break the cycle, is clear: she relates that she “looked at my family then and felt I had two choices: be a relentless worker with a chance at building her own financial foundation or live the carefree way…” which reminded me so much of my own thought processes many years ago. She prepared to go to college, and during the application process the “…specifics were unclear and fell to me to organize and decide, as is usually the case for a college-hopeful teenager whose family never went.”On an individual level, her story (like that of Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle) is inspiring. But it’s so damn depressing to realize that so many people are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Even worse, as she did research in her graduate studies, she “…found that…if you are poor, you are likely to stay poor, no matter how hard you work.” A kneejerk response might be, “well, she worked her way out, so anyone can.” But reading the reality for poor people, especially women, provides insight as to why this just isn’t so. Much of the story is told to the daughter she might have had if she had followed the family pattern of teen pregnancy. It was slightly confusing at first, until I stopped thinking so much about my own history and focused on what she was saying. It’s pretty stunning, and I am eager to bring it to one of my book clubs, to see if it is as deeply affecting to women who grew up without knowing what it’s like to grow up poor is as it was for me. Five stars.
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  • Casey Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free Kindle copy of Heartland by Sarah Smarsh courtesy of Net Galley  and Scribner, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as  I  work in a nonprofit and the subject of the book deals with poverty which is important in the work that I do.  This is the first book by Sarah Sma I received a free Kindle copy of Heartland by Sarah Smarsh courtesy of Net Galley  and Scribner, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book as  I  work in a nonprofit and the subject of the book deals with poverty which is important in the work that I do.  This is the first book by Sarah Smarsh that I have read.This book presents a clear picture of growing up in a multigenerational situation of poverty and the atempt to break out of the cycle when the political/economic structure of the country goes counter to what you are trying to achieve. The author's writing style is a bit unpolished which adds to the understanding of the situation.Eventually this book will be as important to understanding what people in poverty experience as in "Evitcted".I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the struggles in trying to escape poverty in a less than supporting environment.
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  • Brandi
    January 1, 1970
    I like reading about lives that are very different from my own. Sarah Smarsh is a good writer, and it was interesting to learn her family history and her views on the world. But I really wish this book had been organized chronologically instead of thematically. She jumped around in time, which made it hard to keep track of her many relatives and what they were doing. And I’m not really sure what each chapter’s theme was supposed to be, since they were each so long and had multiple messages. Ther I like reading about lives that are very different from my own. Sarah Smarsh is a good writer, and it was interesting to learn her family history and her views on the world. But I really wish this book had been organized chronologically instead of thematically. She jumped around in time, which made it hard to keep track of her many relatives and what they were doing. And I’m not really sure what each chapter’s theme was supposed to be, since they were each so long and had multiple messages. There was a lot of repetition in general that got tiresome. With better organization, the book could have been 50 pages shorter.
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  • Laurie's Lit Picks
    January 1, 1970
    For those of you who loved My Name is Lucy Barton, or Nickled and Dimed, or Hillbilly Elegy, you will need to add this book to your TBR pile. Debut author Sarah Smarsh chronicles her life, and generations of her family, as they try and survive living and toiling in Kansas during the past century. The difference in this story for me was the fact that it is told from a female perspective, as well as focusing on the matriarchal struggles of generations of teenage motherhood, abusive marriages, and For those of you who loved My Name is Lucy Barton, or Nickled and Dimed, or Hillbilly Elegy, you will need to add this book to your TBR pile. Debut author Sarah Smarsh chronicles her life, and generations of her family, as they try and survive living and toiling in Kansas during the past century. The difference in this story for me was the fact that it is told from a female perspective, as well as focusing on the matriarchal struggles of generations of teenage motherhood, abusive marriages, and the lack of education. The idea that one can pull oneself up by the bootstraps is turned upside down when one does not even own any boots. This is an engrossing book that I read voraciously in just 24 hours, unable to put it down, unable to relate in many ways, and also seeing many of my former students in her stories. I wish I had known years ago what I have spent the last few years learning: that the chance of skin color, economic class, and geography has more to do with a person's ability to 'make it' than just about anything else. Yes, there are those anomalies, the poor kid who hits it big like Andrew Carnegie, but they are fewer and fewer than in years past. This book will provide any book club with some provocative conversation and food for thought in our own communities.
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  • Mara
    January 1, 1970
    This book is so timely for our moment that it is almost hard to believe that the author began working on it more than a decade ago. Beautifully told, this memoir chronicles one family's life and times in Kansas as wheat farmers, trying to find their own American dream in a world where their true options were very limited. Class is such a no-no for American discourse, but these kinds of stories remind us why this must change. I found I had difficulty connecting fully with this book, but this is d This book is so timely for our moment that it is almost hard to believe that the author began working on it more than a decade ago. Beautifully told, this memoir chronicles one family's life and times in Kansas as wheat farmers, trying to find their own American dream in a world where their true options were very limited. Class is such a no-no for American discourse, but these kinds of stories remind us why this must change. I found I had difficulty connecting fully with this book, but this is definitely a case of YMMV- ultimately, it was a book I respected more than I loved, but I'm glad I had a chance to read it
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  • Mainlinebooker
    January 1, 1970
    Being a linear person, I found it hard to focus on thematic issues versus chronological time.This, however, was not a huge detraction from this earnest and engaging story of growing up in in heartbeat of Kansas, moving more than 20 times in her childhood, and descending rom a long list of teenage mothers. She clearly delineates how economic circumstances of the area helped shape the value that society ascribed to them. However, this was a story about love as well. How a family shaped by hardwork Being a linear person, I found it hard to focus on thematic issues versus chronological time.This, however, was not a huge detraction from this earnest and engaging story of growing up in in heartbeat of Kansas, moving more than 20 times in her childhood, and descending rom a long list of teenage mothers. She clearly delineates how economic circumstances of the area helped shape the value that society ascribed to them. However, this was a story about love as well. How a family shaped by hardworking parents and grandparents colored her fierce devotion to work energetically ,rise above her situation and cause her to reflect on the factors that separate the rural urban chasm. Not as fierce as the memoir Educated, but sociologically stronger.
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  • Kelli
    January 1, 1970
    I would like to thank the publisher for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.I feel like I need to put a disclaimer on this review that I am not a totally self centered being but I may have enjoyed the bits about home a little more than someone who didn't grow up in the area. I grew up within a few miles of her Grandparents' farm, we were almost as poor and even have some Smarsh relatives. Our Smarsh's used a car hood instead of a canoe but it's I would like to thank the publisher for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.I feel like I need to put a disclaimer on this review that I am not a totally self centered being but I may have enjoyed the bits about home a little more than someone who didn't grow up in the area. I grew up within a few miles of her Grandparents' farm, we were almost as poor and even have some Smarsh relatives. Our Smarsh's used a car hood instead of a canoe but it's all about the same. I really enjoyed revisiting childhood and all those unique experiences that growing up in fly-over country can bring. Pros:She isn't lying or inflating the issues to the best of my knowledge.The book was easy to read and the stories were heartfelt and engaging.I feel like Sarah did a great job of showing how hard life can be without being at all whiny. If you read by the chapter like I do, you will get through this book so fast!She brings up a lot of great points and made me want to research things I didn't realize I needed to research.Cons:I'm really torn on the conversation with the nonexistent baby. It's a neat idea but also pretty distracting.The chapters felt too long at times.
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  • Jaime
    January 1, 1970
    A riveting blend of journalism and research and memoir, this book should be required reading for everyone. That being said, I did want more from it. I thought it would be more of her story, but much of it is her family’s story. She skims over much of her own internal struggle and story, and almost talks around things sometimes. Her college experience is described briefly and perfunctorily. I wanted more (any) of her graduate school experience, especially considering the dichotomy of impoverished A riveting blend of journalism and research and memoir, this book should be required reading for everyone. That being said, I did want more from it. I thought it would be more of her story, but much of it is her family’s story. She skims over much of her own internal struggle and story, and almost talks around things sometimes. Her college experience is described briefly and perfunctorily. I wanted more (any) of her graduate school experience, especially considering the dichotomy of impoverished farm life and Ivy League writing program. (I say this because I went through the same program, and would have loved to read about her experience from her perspective, as well as her insights.). I think she shortchanged the book by not going deeper into her own story. It feels a bit detached. Overall, this is an engrossing read, and so important today. Smarsh’s writing pulls you in and it’s like talking with a friend - a very smart, astute friend.
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  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    So smart and thoughtful. I was disappointed reading Hillbilly Elegy - it didn't quite get the experience of growing up rural and/or poor and "getting out" and what that means and how fraught that can be - but Heartland succeeds where Hillbilly Elegy failed. Sarah Smarsh just completely gets it and engages you from start to finish with compassion and intelligence.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Read an ARC. For fans of 'Nickel and Dimed' (which I am not.)
  • Katie Rose
    January 1, 1970
    Just an amazing memoir of growing up poor in rural America. Smarsh's writing is beautiful, and her insights are keen. I can't wait to buy a copy to share.
  • Tor
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning.
  • Marian
    January 1, 1970
    I had hoped to be keener on this one. Best feature for me were the stories of the grandmothers and mother.
  • Alice
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC from the publisher.Sarah Smarsh led me into the world of her childhood in a way that was at once eye-opening and welcoming. As someone who grew up in Kentucky, but always lived in the suburbs, who studied animal science but switched to books and journalism, whose great-relatives farmed or worked in factories but who grew up in a solidly middle-class home, I was at least vaguely aware of the life she portrays. But I didn't realize how harshly I judged it before reading this. I d I received an ARC from the publisher.Sarah Smarsh led me into the world of her childhood in a way that was at once eye-opening and welcoming. As someone who grew up in Kentucky, but always lived in the suburbs, who studied animal science but switched to books and journalism, whose great-relatives farmed or worked in factories but who grew up in a solidly middle-class home, I was at least vaguely aware of the life she portrays. But I didn't realize how harshly I judged it before reading this. I didn't realize how the choices that poor people make are often the only choices they have because of the social and economic constructs that our country has built. And I didn't realize the extent of financial burden that hard-working laborers carry.Smarsh shattered my illusions while taking me on sleigh ride behind a combine on flat Kansas snow, working in the red dust that covered her grandparents farm, where all who'd fallen on bad times could find refuge, and telling tales of the strong women who had come before her, who gave her the courage to respect herself and believe in her worth.
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  • Patricia Baker
    January 1, 1970
    read advance reader's edition to reviewso much to identify with this book..lived in Wichita for a while and yes, once I moved people would say "you don't live here" to me..tornado alley, manufacturing of airplanes and wind are all familiar subjects to me..but do not believe you have to be from Kansas to be poor..poor is all around the country. the author is right to say there is an invisible line between coming to school with store bought clothes and wearing clothes that smell like you burn wood read advance reader's edition to reviewso much to identify with this book..lived in Wichita for a while and yes, once I moved people would say "you don't live here" to me..tornado alley, manufacturing of airplanes and wind are all familiar subjects to me..but do not believe you have to be from Kansas to be poor..poor is all around the country. the author is right to say there is an invisible line between coming to school with store bought clothes and wearing clothes that smell like you burn wood to heat your house, wearing shoes that have the essence of cow poop in the crevices, and baloney and mustard sandwiches carried to school in a brown paper bag.got a little lost in all the moving that the women did in this book... cannot imagine the imprint of always being the new student in class every couple of months..all the grandmothers and mother figures did seem strong in their own right except that they seemed to need that abusive male in their life..it takes someone with grit to say "not me" to this lifestyle.this book also seems somewhat like "Educated." not so much moving about, but a violent family life with little emphasis on outside book learning. both authors achieved something neither family was interested to give the females in the family..again so much grit and determination to better oneself and hopefully improve the working poor.
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  • Karin Schott
    January 1, 1970
    I read an early manuscript of this memoir.Sara Smarsh examines her childhood in a poor working class family in rural Kansas through the lens of class. She tells this story to the daughter, August, she imagines she might have had if she were a young teenage mother.There were many times while reading this book that I was taken back to my own childhood. Granted I did not grow up in rural Kansas, the pride of the farmer was not imbued into the story of my family. My family made things in northeast m I read an early manuscript of this memoir.Sara Smarsh examines her childhood in a poor working class family in rural Kansas through the lens of class. She tells this story to the daughter, August, she imagines she might have had if she were a young teenage mother.There were many times while reading this book that I was taken back to my own childhood. Granted I did not grow up in rural Kansas, the pride of the farmer was not imbued into the story of my family. My family made things in northeast mills. There was pride in that work too. Work that has disappeared with the flood of cheap imports. Smarsh delves deeply into the attitudes, biases, and government policies that further strain an already struggling class of people.This is an important book; not just for the needed contribution to the discussion about income inequality, but also for those of us who still struggle to cover the bills with hard work that never gets them ahead. A deeply empathetic and compassionate story.
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  • Marika
    January 1, 1970
    Sarah Smarsh grew up not far from me, in a little Kansas town where poverty and lack of health care is a given. Who has money for those luxuries? She writes about the grind of working 6 - 7 days a week, no vacations and still the money barely covers the bills. This is real life, the true mid-west where hard work is seen as something you just do. Still, all the hours and days of working are not enough for many to rise out of the cycle of poverty and that's the shame that America must look at. Thi Sarah Smarsh grew up not far from me, in a little Kansas town where poverty and lack of health care is a given. Who has money for those luxuries? She writes about the grind of working 6 - 7 days a week, no vacations and still the money barely covers the bills. This is real life, the true mid-west where hard work is seen as something you just do. Still, all the hours and days of working are not enough for many to rise out of the cycle of poverty and that's the shame that America must look at. Think of this book as the mirror where you see the plight of others through your eyes.For readers who liked Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and Evicted by Matthew Desmond.I read an advance copy and was not compensated.
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  • Lydia
    January 1, 1970
    This book was pretty great! I liked the unique narrative from the author towards her unborn baby...I always appreciate creativity in narrative and the ability of a woman thinking outside of the regular rules and views of society!!
  • Alice
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come.
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