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March Book Club: Heartland By Sarah Smarsh

Join us Sunday March 10th as we discuss Heartland by Sarah Smarsh! Our discussion will begin at 1pm!

"In this furious, regretful, and loving memoir, Sarah Smarsh examines the life of America’s rural poor through the microcosm of her extended family. Growing up working-class white on the Kansas plains, Smarsh enjoyed the freedom of a country childhood, but witnessed the hideous legacy of poverty in her relatives’ untreated illnesses, unsafe job conditions, abusive marriages, and addictions to everything from cigarettes to opioids.

Smarsh, now a writer and professor, created a stable professional life for herself using the same work ethic she saw in her parents, with talents they themselves might have developed had they been able to continue in school. What made the biggest difference: federal grants for first-generation students, and her determination to avoid early pregnancy. Her life’s work, she felt, “was to be heard,” rather than to become a mother, though the daughter she might have had feels so real that Heartland takes the form of an anguished letter to her.

For Smarsh, one of the cruelest blows the poor suffer is society’s assessment that they somehow deserve less than others. “People of all backgrounds experience a sense of poorness—not enough of this or that thing that money can’t buy. But financial poverty is the one shamed by society, culture, unchecked capitalism, public policy, our very way of speaking.” Heartland will make you check your privilege before you refer to anyone as “white trash” or “red neck,” and if you’re standing at a polling station, you might hear Smarsh’s voice in your ear. Her portrayal of what it feels like to be poor in America will persuade you that it’s not a fate any child should be born into. —Sarah Harrison Smith, Amazon Book Review"