A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
This event includes a book signing
October 1, 2018
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes journalist SARAH SMARSH—a Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government—for a discussion of her debut book, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.
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.
“You might think that a book about growing up on a poor Kansas farm would qualify as ‘sociology,’ and Heartland certainly does . . . But this book is so much more than even the best sociology. It is poetry—of the wind and snow, the two-lane roads running through the wheat, the summer nights when work-drained families drink and dance under the prairie sky.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
“Sarah Smarsh—tough-minded and rough-hewn—draws us into the real lives of her family, barely making it out there on the American plains. There’s not a false note. Smarsh, as a writer, is Authentic with a capital A . . . This is just what the world needs to hear.” —George Hodgman, author of Bettyville
“Sarah Smarsh is one of America’s foremost writers on class. Heartland is about an impossible dream for anyone born into poverty—a leap up in class, doubly hard for a woman. Smarsh’s journey from a little girl into adulthood in Kansas speaks to tens of thousands of girls now growing up poor in what so many dismiss as ‘flyover country.’ Heartland offers a fresh and riveting perspective on the middle of the nation all too often told through the prism of men.” —Dale Maharidge, author of Pulitzer Prize–winning And Their Children After Them
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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