A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on EarthBook - 2018
*Instant New York Times Bestseller*
* Named a Best Book of 2018 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.
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) .
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With another year in the books, LPL staff from all across the library share their favorite new titles of 2018. -- Ian, Information Services: Can I cheat and choose two? I’m going for it. These fantastic graphic novels are both set in space, but couldn’t be more different. Aliens: Dead Orbit is a thrilling, violent, meticulously drawn original Alien story that captures the claustrophobia and… (more)
4pm, Second Sunday each month in Meeting Room A This book club gets us thinking and talking about inequality and injustice in the U.S. Nonfiction, novels, memoirs and more–we seek multiple perspectives, with multiple points of entry, and we work to center the voices of marginalized communities and people through our exploration. Please contact Polli Kenn (email@example.com) for more… (more)
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From Library Staff
LPL_ShirleyB Oct 29, 2018
Smarsh writes in poetic prose to rich & resonate effect!
From the critics
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“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
“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
“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
“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
“Society’s contempt for the poor becomes the poor person’s contempt for herself.” - p. 132
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.,.
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.
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.
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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