Heartland (Smarsh) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Smarsh is an invaluable guide to flyover country, worth 20 abstract-noun-espousing op-ed columnists.… A deeply humane memoir with crackles of 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. Or, perhaps, simply: class.
Francesca Mari - New York Times Book Review


In her sharply-observed, big-hearted memoir, Heartland, Smarsh chronicles the human toll of inequality, her own childhood a case study …what this book offers is a tour through the messy and changed reality of the American dream, and a love letter to the unruly but still beautiful place she called home.
Boston Globe


A poignant look at growing up in a town 30 miles from the nearest city; learning the value and satisfaction of hard, blue-collar work, and then learning that the rest of the country see that work as something to be pitied; watching her young mother's frustration with living at the "dangerous crossroads of gender and poverty" and understanding that such a fate might be hers, too. This idea is the thread that Smarsh so gracefully weaves throughout the narrative; she addresses the hypothetical child she might or might not eventually have and in doing so addresses all that the next generation Middle Americans living in poverty will face.
Buzzfeed


The difficulty of transcending poverty is the message behind this personal history of growing up in the dusty farmlands of Kansas, where "nothing was more painful …than true things being denied." …The takeaway? The working poor don't need our pity; they need to be heard above the din of cliché and without so-called expert interpretation. Smarsh's family are expert enough to correct any misunderstandings about their lives.
Oprah.com


Startlingly vivid.… [A]n absorbing, important work in a country that needs to know more about itself.
Christian Science Monitor


Smarsh’s family history, tracing generations of teen mothers and Kansas farmer-laborers, forsakes detailed analysis of Trumpland poverty in favor of a first-person perspective colored by a sophisticated (if general) understanding of structural inequality. But most importantly, her project is shot through with compassion and pride for the screwed-over working class, even while narrating her emergence from it, diving into college instead of motherhood.
Vulture


Sarah Smarsh looks at class divides in the United States while sharing her own story of growing up in poverty before ultimately becoming a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her memoir doesn’t just focus on her own story; it also examines how multiple generations of her family were affected by economic policies and systems.
Bustle


If you’re working towards a deeper understanding of our ruptured country, then Sarah Smarsh’s memoir and examination of poverty in the American heartland is an essential read. Smarsh chronicles her childhood on the poverty line in Kansas in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the marginalization of people based on their income. When did earning less mean a person was worth less?
Refinery29


(Starred review) Candid and courageous memoir of growing up in a family of working-class farmers…. Smarsh’s raw and intimate narrative exposes a country of economic inequality that "has failed its children.
Publishers Weekly


[A] countervailing voice to J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, which blamed individual choices …for any one person ending up in poverty.… While Smarsh ends on a hopeful note, she offers a searing indictment of how the poor are viewed and treated in this country.
Library Journal


(Starred review) [T]he author emphasizes how those with solid financial situations often lack understanding about families such as hers.… A potent social and economic message embedded within an affecting memoir.
Kirkus Reviews

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