Heartland

Heartland

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

eBook - 2018
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*Finalist for the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize* *Instant New York Times Bestseller* *Named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, Shelf Awareness (Nonfiction), Bustle, and Publishers Weekly (Nonfiction)* 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.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. A beautifully written memoir that combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, Heartland examines the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. "A deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight, 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 Book Review).
Publisher: 2018
ISBN: 9781501133114
Branch Call Number: DOWNLOADABLE E-BOOK
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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The Between the Lines Book Group will be reading Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth in August 2020.

c
cknightkc
Jan 05, 2020

HEARTLAND is a deeply affecting memoir that examines the effects of generational working-class poverty on the lives of the author’s family. Although set in rural Kansas, the so-called Breadbasket of America, the story is relevant to any number of communities across the United States. Our nation is currently facing the ever-growing problems of income inequality and lack of empathy for those who are different from us. HEARTLAND challenges the efficacy of “trickle-down economics.” And it should be read by anyone who believes in the myth that with enough hard work, anyone can succeed and achieve the American Dream. My only criticism of this book is that author Sarah Smarsh uses a literary gimmick of writing to an unborn child that at times detracted from the essential message she was trying to convey.

l
llocas
Dec 30, 2019

The way it is written made it a bit difficult to follow who's who. I kept wishing I had made a list of the people involved at the beginning. Every American should read this book. However, I wonder if things are that different in our prairies.

IndyPL_CarriG Dec 09, 2019

Similar in theme to books like Maid and Educated, but less personal in a lot of ways, Heartland examines the changing social and political constructs that have made it harder and harder to work one's way into the middle class through the lens of the author's family and the poverty they endured for generations. I read this book right after reading Maid and it was enlightening to read about the political and economic changes that have shaped and continue to shape the difficulties faced by people trying to make a better life for themselves. While Maid and Educated were memoirs that were difficult to put down, this is a more thought-provoking examination of class and culture with a slightly more academic bent, but still personal enough to keep it interesting. A very worthwhile read, especially for those who have never experienced poverty or lived in a rural area.

b
Belmonter
Dec 05, 2019

if coastal elites genuinely want to understand rural people in "flyover country," they should read this book.

c
cekherf
Dec 04, 2019

Read this book. Although other readers were turned off by the "gimmick" used by the author of writing to a never born daughter, I found that once you understood what she was doing that faded to the background and gave the narrative a framework.

b
biker3art
Oct 22, 2019

A wonderful memoir. The subtitle captures the content accurately. The writing is clear and vivid.

m
MargeBanks
Sep 10, 2019

Mary Ellen

j
jlee1957
Aug 04, 2019

I found the stories she related interesting, for the most part, though also depressing. Her non-linear approach--skipping back and forth between generations with no discernible logic--made the narrative hard to follow at times, especially given the number of family members.

Smarsh places the blame for her extended family's failure to thrive almost solely on economic inequality. While certainly a factor, the anecdotes she relates point more toward substance abuse, mental illness, ingrained dysfunctional family patterns, and a perverse inability to learn from past mistakes.

We learn quite a bit of detailed information about the older generations' marriages, divorces, health problems, and other travails. We get comparatively little detail about the author's life, which is odd since this was a memoir. The many gaps left me wondering how she got to where she is today.

Finally, the literary device of continually addressing a child she will never have was an
annoying gimmick. An editor should have nipped that in the bud before this was published.

g
Ginger34
Jun 25, 2019

Blah, blah, blah.....lots of stereotypes.....woe is me mentality....glad she finally rose above her circumstances. She could have used the book as a success story about her life and not trying to blame her upbringing on the government.

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c
cknightkc
Jan 05, 2020

“Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption,” Carter said, his pale eyes full of worry. “. . . But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning.” - p. 23

c
cknightkc
Jan 05, 2020

“But the American Dream has a price tag on it. The cost changes depending on where you’re born and to whom, with what color skin and with how much money in your parents’ bank account. The poorer you are, the higher the price. You can pay an entire life in labor, it turns out, and have nothing to show for it. Less than nothing, even: debt, injury, abject need.” - p. 42

c
cknightkc
Jan 05, 2020

“To be made invisible as a class is an invalidation. With invalidation comes shame. A Shame that deep—being poor in a place full of narratives about middle and upper classes—can make you feel like what you are is a failure.”

“No one around me articulated these things, let alone complained about them. The worker who feels her poor circumstances result from some personal failure is less likely to have a grievance with a boss, policy, or system and is less likely to protest, strike, or demand a raise.” - p. 127

c
cknightkc
Jan 05, 2020

“Our sense that our struggles were our own fault, our acceptance of the way things were, helped keep American industry humming to the benefit of the wealthy.” - pp. 127 & 128

c
cknightkc
Jan 05, 2020

“Society’s contempt for the poor becomes the poor person’s contempt for herself.” - p. 132

r
roystreet
Nov 16, 2018

the American Dream has. a price tag on it. The cost changes depending on where you're born and to whom. . .but the poorer you are the higher the price.,.

r
roystreet
Nov 16, 2018

The poverty I felt most. . . was a scarcity of the heart, a near-constant state of longing for the mother right in front of me yet out of reach.

She withheld the immense love she had inside her like children of the Great Depression hoarded coins.

r
roystreet
Nov 16, 2018

Class didn't exist in a democracy like ours [in 1980], as far as most Americans were concerned, at least not as a destiny or an excuse.

You got what you worked for, we believed.

There was some truth to that. But it was not the whole truth.

r
roystreet
Nov 16, 2018

That we could live on a patch of Kansas dirt with a tub of Crisco lard and a $1 rebate coupon in an envelope on the kitchen counter and call ourselves middle class was at once a triumph of contentedness and a sad comment on our country's lack of awareness about its own economic structure.

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