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

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

Geschrieben von Sarah Smarsh

Erzählt von Sarah Smarsh


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

Geschrieben von Sarah Smarsh

Erzählt von Sarah Smarsh

Bewertungen:
4.5/5 (97 Bewertungen)
Länge:
9 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Sep 18, 2018
ISBN:
9781508265313
Format:
Hörbuch

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Beschreibung

An eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in the American Midwest.

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.

Freigegeben:
Sep 18, 2018
ISBN:
9781508265313
Format:
Hörbuch

Auch als verfügbar...

Auch als buch verfügbarBuch

Über den Autor

Sarah Smarsh is a freelance writer and fifth-generation Kansan. She is a fellow of the Center for Kansas Studies and the author of It Happened in Kansas (Globe Pequot)and Outlaw Tales of Kansas (TwoDot). She currently lives in northeast Kansas.


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4.3
97 Bewertungen / 25 Rezensionen
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  • (5/5)
    Oh my. Had heard of, read on plane back from Kansas on recommendation of Nancy Z - so good! Had I taken a non-fiction writing course instead of fiction at the Lawrence Arts Center way back when Smarsh would have been my instructor.A wonderful Kansas and feminist story, firmly grounded in a dawning class awareness here in 2019.
  • (5/5)
    -- By middle of HEARTLAND I like Smarsh. Majority of people accept life they're dealt. Before age 40 Smarsh had written this well-researched memoir. She overcame an impoverished childhood spent living with relatives in rural Kansas as well as more urban areas. --
  • (4/5)
    Initially I really liked listening to this book which is narrated by the author. As the book wore on, though, I found that it skipped around so much that I was confused about what happened in which order. It might have been easier to follow this book in print but you would still have to pay attention about who was living where and with whom.The author grew up in Kansas to parents who got divorced when she was fairly young. Her mother was also a child of divorce and in her case her mother got married five times. Eventually Sarah's mother got married to a farmer which provided a stability that the author, her mother and her grandmother had lacked most of their lives. Sarah's father had grown up on a farm but he turned his hand to carpentry and wood working to make ends meet. Both Sarah's mother and father found new partners after their divorce but Sarah didn't really get along with her mother's boyfriend so she lived with her grandmother and her husband until she went away to school. A unique twist to this memoir is that the author tells it to her unborn child. Unborn as in will never be born because Sarah decided that she could not bring another child into poverty. Instead she became a writer and professor. She escaped the trap of poverty that the generations before had been sucked in by. This book tells some hard truths about being in the working poor and for that reason it is an important book.
  • (2/5)
    Nothing really wrong with the book, but I just couldn't get into it. It is a memoir of growing up in Kansas in a divorced and impoverish farm-oriented family. I'm in a "reading funk" at the moment so I might enjoy it some other time. Abandoned.
  • (3/5)
    I wanted to like Heartland so much more than I did. Although she started writing it 15 years ago, it feels like a response to A Hillbilly Elegy. Sarah Smarsh grew up in poverty from a long line of Kansas farmers. She is the first to not get pregnant as a teenager, and so she writes part of the book to the unborn daughter, August, who she did not have as a teenager. I found these dialogues to “August” distracting, forced and sometimes overly sappy.Most of the book relays how difficult it was for her single mother, grandmother, aunts to have any stability as they married and divorced violent men. A couple of them had some stability in middle age with jobs in the county court or marrying a local journalist, but most times they were living out of motels, sharing a trailer with another family, or working the family farm until someone else needed the rooms more.The most interesting part of the book was how Sarah was often discouraged from excelling at school. Very few of her relatives graduated high school so the fact that in elementary school she was selected for a gifted program was difficult for them. They were ashamed of their own lack of education and told her to not think herself “above her place.” She worked multiple jobs and applied for college without any support or discussion with her family.Since I just finished Prairie Fires I picked up on the similarities towards government help 100 years later. In both books they perceived government help with laziness, but they worked multiple jobs at a time often with lots of physical labor. They would never be lumped with the “lazy” and do something so shameful as getting food stamps or assisted housing. Her best quote regarding her families beliefs “financially comfortable liberals may rest assured that their fortunes result from personal merit while generously insisting they be to taxed to help the “needy”. Impoverished people, then, must do one of two things: concede personal failure and vote for the party more inclined to assist them, or vote for the other party, whose rhetoric conveys hope that the labor of their lives is what will compensate them.”
  • (4/5)
    What a powerful read! This book really connected with me. I also was raised in the Midwest, a generation before Sarah, and am from humble roots. That is probably where our connection would end since unlike Sarah, I was raised in a stable family with loving parents who were able to provide what I needed-both physical and emotional. Still, I found myself appreciating and understanding the life she describes as her own.It's not comfortable to read about the struggles and continually regretful decisions of people living in poverty, but I think it's so important in understanding their challenges and often hopeless mindsets. How startling it was to me that it might be easier to just move when things don't go as planned or hope comes only in the possibilities of a new location. Sarah's family moved countless times, repeatedly disrupting her life and schooling. Yet, Sarah helped me to appreciate and respect her family's attempts to make changes and keep trying. Life is bleak when there is little hope. This is something that those of us who haven't lived in true poverty can't understand. Unsurprisingly, it breaks many people. Sarah's people were bent, but not broken. Sarah herself, found an inner strength and rose above, breaking the ties that bound her family to poverty.The style of Sarah's writing is unique and genuine. The book is written as a letter to her unconceived child; the spirit of a girl that she called August. She was determined to not make the same mistakes as the generations of women before her by having a child when she was still nearly a child herself, so she created an image this potential child of her youth. Throughout her childhood and early adulthood this image became quite real for her, and she used it as motivation to never have her since that would certainly continue the cycle of poverty. Sarah's inner strength and gift of intelligence, along with encouragement from select teachers along the way, blossomed slowly into a life with better opportunities than those of her ancestors. She writes in such an honest and open way of her experiences, creating a real feeling of what it was like for the reader. It is hard, but vital to our future to try to understand what the cycle of poverty is, in order to someday find a way to create change and hope for a better life.My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this title. Most of all, I thank Sarah for having the courage to tell her family's story (with their blessing) in such a moving way. I thoroughly recommend this title to all.
  • (5/5)
    Here's the woman's perspective of the territory claimed by Hillbilly Elergy. Although that story took place in the Appalachians and this is rural Kansas, it's all flyover country, to be avoided by coastal Americans. Smarsh is the scion of five generations of subsistence farmers, and was inspired at an early age to break the pervasive cycle of early pregnancy/non-profitable farming/alcoholism/domestic violence that infuses the matriarchy in which she is raised. Her motivation is not only escape, but love for an entity she grows inside herself, which she names August - a better self, not a child: “I loved us both so much that I made sure you were conceived only in my mind.”The stories of her mother and father's mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers, are marinated in the concept so common to many Americans: don't get above yourself. And when getting above yourself means striving for a life better than the one your parents led, it's depressingly self-defeating. But Smarsh loves most of her relatives, and is never condescending in her recitation of the seemingly endless bad decisions that make hardscrabble lives even worse. She also does not shy from discussing white privilege, class, and race issues.Quotes: “The defining feeling of my childhood was that of being told there wasn’t a problem when I knew damn well there was. If a person could go to work every day and still not be able to pay the bills, and the reason wasn’t racism, what less articulated problem was afoot? I wasn’t from a family or background anyone seemed to be rooting for. Our small town was almost entirely white, and in that context economics decided the social order. For my family, the advantage of our race was embedded into our existence but hard for us to perceive amid daily economic struggle.”“Wealth and income inequality were nothing rare in global history. What was peculiar about the class system in the United States, though, is that for centuries we denied it existed. At every rung of the economic ladder, Americans believed that hard work and a little know-how were all a person needed to get ahead.”“If you’re wild enough to enjoy it, poverty can contain a sort of freedom – no careers or properties to maintain, no community meetings or social status to be responsible to.” “So much of childhood amounts to being awake in a grownup’s nightmare.”“What it means to be “country” has changed in the few decades of my lifetime from an experience to a brand culture cultivated by conservative forces.”“Receiving accolades for your academic work was an offense to grandmothers who had left school in tenth grade and were adverse to anyone thinking herself too good for where she came from.”“No house is truly secure. The body is the only permanent home, and even that one comes with an eviction notice.”
  • (4/5)
    In Sarah Smarsh's insightful memoir Heartland, a relative of the author describes her early life of rural poverty and family chaos as a "sad circus". Smarsh shows how the many difficulties associated with working-class lives, including low education rates, substance abuse, lack of health care, and a pattern of teenage pregnancies and early marriages, have affected her own family. But the author also wants citified readers to forget the stereotypes of the rural poor as stupid or inbred and to recognize the practical intelligence and hard work of those who live close to the land. The author's trope of addressing her un-conceived daughter "August" throughout the narrative worked better than I thought it would. All in all, this is an important look at often misunderstood social and economic realities. Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Sarah Smarsh's memoir, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, was written over the course of fifteen years.Smarsh 'combed through public records, old newspaper, letters, photographs, and other archives to piece together a family history from the ill-documented chaos that poverty begets.'Smarsh was born to a teenage mother on the plains of Kansas. Her birth was the next chapter in a story of teen mothers, domestic abuse, inter generational poverty and more. But is also a story of resilience, strength, tenacity and hope for something better.Smarsh introduces us to the members of her family, with an honest and unadulterated voice. The emphasis is on the maternal members. I have to say, I was smitten by Grandma Betty. She is a force of nature, a rock to her family. Smarsh details her own family history, but also includes how government policies, programs and the economic climate over the years impact the working poor.Smarsh has written Heartland with asides and ruminations to the child/daughter she will never have. (by choice). I did find this a bit hard to wrap my head around in the opening chapters. It continues throughout the book and although I understand she has broken the pattern and chosen not to raise another generation, it became a bit repetitive and lost it's initial impact.As I read, I found myself nodding my head, as some of Smarsh's story is familiar to me - snippets of conversation, situations and hurdles to overcome. I always feel privileged to read a memoir, a telling of lives...."With deepest reverence, thank you to my family for surviving, with humor and dignity, the difficulties that allowed this book to exist. When I asked for their blessing to tell our shared past, they bravely answered yes. Their reasons for standing behind my work, as they sometimes told me: Because it might help someone else, and because it is true."Thank you Sarah Smarsh for sharing.
  • (5/5)
    A wonderful insight into poverty. Thank you for sharing your experience. Congratulations for breaking the chain.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent story with a great message! I really enjoyed listening to this book!
  • (5/5)
    The narrative alone is would make this worth reading, but it’s the intelligent commentary on the construct of class in America that makes this book truly great.
  • (5/5)
    Beautifully warm, aware and inspiring throughout its rough and real edges.
  • (2/5)
    I think this book needed a stronger editor. The narrative quirk of addressing her words to her never-born child is clunky and distracting. I also find the economic and political analysis to be simplistic and unconvincing. I appreciated hearing Smarsh's personal story, but the weaknesses of the book outweigh the strengths.
  • (5/5)
    I loved it. Could have been written by me. A Canadian.
  • (5/5)
    The truth- made this book great. I would love for my daughters to read this. I will pass this one along.
  • (5/5)
    Beautiful book with an eye-opening story of poverty in America. The story is engaging from the start and the narration is great. 10/10 recommend.
  • (5/5)
    Very few memoirs illicit much interest from me. They are usually ego enhancers for the author and full of bias. This one definitely has a point of view but it is well earned objectively based on the author's experiences growing up poor in rural Kansas. Virtually all the young women in her experience end up pregnant as teens and end up at the mercy of unkind men. At many times she speaks to the baby girl she never had. This is a powerful memoir that makes me have more respect for those without means.
  • (5/5)
    The most beautifully written memoir I've read about childhood poverty since Frank McCourt's earlier works. I lived in rural Kansas for a good chunk of my childhood and she captures the spirit and the challenges of that unique, often overlooked, place very well. Recommended reading for everyone, especially those involved in family law, education, income parity, banking, and domestic policy.
  • (4/5)
    Heartland is Sarah Smarsh’s memoir of growing up in rural Kansas. Smarsh addresses her memoir to her unborn child. A child she was never pregnant with because she saw what her mother and other women in her family went through as teenage mothers and vowed that would never be her. Which is great but as a literary device it was a little weird and awkward. Thankfully, she doesn’t speak to her imaginary child too terribly often.Heartland drives home that the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy is hogwash. Sometimes the deck is just too stacked and the cycle of poverty nearly impossible to break. Smarsh herself managed to get out but after reading about her family, one understands why they did not. Comparisons have been made to Hillbilly Elegy and they are definitely similar. However, if you can only read one, choose Heartland. Smarsh is a better writer (sorry JD!) and she has more insight into the class divide and her family’s circumstances.I listed to the audiobook of Heartland, which Smarsh reads herself. She has a pleasant voice with just a hint of a Southern accent that made this book an enjoyable listen. Recommended.
  • (3/5)
    I reject her premise on the housing meltdown. Banks did not want to loan money to people who did not meet traditional standards for obtaining one. They were forced to by Democratic legislation and threatened with legal action if loans were not made. Then those loans they were forced to make were called predatory.
  • (3/5)
    I could relate to much of this story and think that its a book worth reading. Not all of rural America is hooked on drugs, there is a huge amount of people trapped in the lifestyle of poverty- by their heritage and circumstances.
  • (5/5)
    Admittedly, I am biased as I can identify w the author in a profound way. Right down to our Grandma Betty. Having grown up in rural Missouri just a few hours from Sarah Smarsh’s hometown and being born 30 days after her, I could relate to almost every facet of her childhood.

    Beyond the personal connection I had to his book, it is a thought provoking look at class structure and how ‘working hard’ doesn’t always equate to getting ahead. Really, really well done.
    A must read during this election year.
  • (4/5)

    1 Person fand dies hilfreich

    I can’t be objective about this book. It’s a memoir by someone born unwanted to an unwed teenage mother, who grew up in & around Wichita. I was born to an unwed teenage mother, and I spent a year or so in my late teens with the weirdest determination to move with my boyfriend from Staten Island to Wichita. Hence this book was like a weird mash-up of the kind of life I could have had, poor and disadvantaged, had I not been relinquished; and the life I briefly but badly wanted to have, canning vegetables in a farmhouse in Kansas.So, that said, let’s try to be objective. It may seem at first blush that we have yet another GLASS CASTLE on our hands – look at my crazy childhood! Marvel at my wherewithal as I escape it! But this is one “growing up poor” memoir that is definitely different. Smarsh addresses the whole thing to “you” – “you” is the baby she never had; the unwanted, unwed pregnancy that would have sealed her fate, like that of her mother and grandmother before her, had she not made it her teenage life’s goal to graduate with a diploma in hand and no baby inside of her.Furthermore, Smarsh doesn’t play her childhood for shock value. All of the main characters in her life are viewed with compassion. In fact, the book is more like HILLBILLY ELEGY than GLASS CASTLE; but HILLBILLY wasn’t political at all compared to this. Smarsh puts no blame whatsoever on any of her relatives for their actions; she blames everything on poverty, and poverty she blames on our flawed American system.She has no policy prescriptions, and it’s not clear what she would advocate to fix things. Her relatives eschew handouts and help, and wouldn’t accept increased (or any) welfare payments if they were offered, so increasing traditional poverty relief programs won’t help. What Smarsh seems to want is an admission – from somewhere, somehow – that the American Dream is a hoax. Working hard DOESN’T help. And then, I guess, we take it from there?I can see whence she gets this – by all accounts, her folks DID work hard, and DO work hard. I lost track of the number of truck stops opened by the females and jobs held down by her Dad. And I’m not seeing incapacitating addiction, other than by Dad’s new wife, or too many other horrendous life decisions; apart from too much husband-hopping and, of course, the unwanted pregnancies, these being where Smarsh lays the blame from Day 1, being one of them herself. Her family is Catholic, so I guess that’s why contraception is not mentioned even one time throughout the entire book that I can remember. (Smarsh stays unfertilized by choosing a boyfriend with no “physical desire” for her – she drops this strange fact at the end of the book, never having mentioned a boyfriend before, which was bizarre.) It is odd to me how Catholics can apparently take the no-contraception rule so incredibly seriously, but not pay any respect to certain other rules, such as, oh, say, the one about marriage vows.As a writer, Smarsh occasionally gets repetitive, as well as coming off as whiny. A big plot point is her mother’s ambivalence toward her. She gives us very few actual examples, none of which is earth-shattering; though maybe I’m just inured to such things by the whole GLASS CASTLE genre. The narrative also does not seem directly chronological, and gets confusing. Apart from the names of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, names of other relatives could get hard to keep straight, especially due to the overlapping ages of the generations due to the unplanned timing of pregnancies; but Smarsh does drop reminders reasonably often (“my young aunt”, etc.).I wanted to return to this story again and again… maybe, in the end, mostly due to my personal reasons. I’m so happy I discovered it.

    1 Person fand dies hilfreich

  • (5/5)

    1 Person fand dies hilfreich

    Every person who believes that hard work alone will solve the poverty issue need to read this book. Living in rural Kansas the authors tells her story of what it is like to grow up poor and never catch up with expenses. The saying “It takes money to make money” is true. If you have only bills, you never make money. Excellent non-fiction book selection for a book club.

    1 Person fand dies hilfreich