STAFF PICK: Heartland by Sarah Smarsh

Title: Heartland
Author: Sarah Smarsh
Narrator: Sarah Smarsh

Born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product of generations of teen moms on her maternal side, Sarah Smarsh has joined the ranks of the brilliant authors behind Educated, Hillbilly ElegyThe Glass CastleEvicted, and Nickle and Dimed, who have successfully portrayed America’s working-class poverty.

During her childhood in the 1980s and 1990s, Sarah was on a free-lunch program in school and moved between trailer homes and farms in rural Kansas. Sarah was determined to break her family’s cycle of poverty and teen parenthood. Weaving in the larger dynamics of American capitalism that began with the Reagan government and continuing into modern day, Heartland reveals what it’s like to grow up poor in one of the richest countries in the world.

Heartland challenges readers to look more closely at the class divide in the United States and examines the myths about people who are considered less because they earn less, and Sarah’s narration makes the audiobook even richer. I listened to much of the audiobook with my eyes closed and envisioned the Kansas soil beneath my feet and stalks of wheat grazing my hands that reminded me of what it was like to grow up in a rural town.

America is known for its excess. Big box stores, excess waistlines, and long list of “world’s largest _____” prevail, and yet so much of its population lacks access to more of what citizens truly need — health care, education, and opportunity.

Blending experience, research, and stunning storytelling, Sarah’s powerful analysis of what it means to be poor is as raw as it is remarkable. Her ability to contextualize the reality of working six or seven days a week with no vacation and stretching a dollar as far as possible to barely cover the bills will pull readers into an issue no one can afford to ignore.

 

Heartland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more and sample the audio.

 

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