A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke
in the Richest Country on Earth
Smarsh was born a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side, the child of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side. In HEARTLAND, she introduces readers to a compelling cast of characters from her own family—grandmothers who act as second mothers, farmers who work themselves to the bone, builders who can’t afford their own homes, children who move from school to school.
Smarsh maps their lives against the destruction of the working class wrought by public policy: the demise of the family farm, the dismantling of public health care, the defunding of public schools, wages so stagnant that full-time laborers could no longer pay the bills. Readers will learn what Smarsh did: Working hard in this country probably won’t get you ahead after all.
The complex, often brilliant people of Smarsh’s story defy stereotypes amid a culture that embraces the term “white trash,” suggesting that some lives are of lesser value and even dispensable. Part memoir, part social analysis, part cultural commentary, HEARTLAND is an uncompromising look at class, identity and the perils of economic hardship in a wealthy nation.