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

The author grew up in a midwest wheat-farming family in the 1980s and 1990s that found itself struggling to get by, for generations. This book tells the story of her young life and transition to adulthood. Smarsh combines memoir with rich and insightful social commentary. She asks us to carefully consider American class divisions and to question myths in our society that cause people to be treated as less than others simply because they are paid less. While not set in Oregon, this book contains lessons and reflections valuable for any rural community.

Author: Sarah Smarsh
Year of Publishing: 2019
Number of Pages: 320

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  1. haileys (verified owner)

    Good read, interesting story!

  2. sweety95838 (verified owner)

    very good and very interesting

  3. kerricoldren (verified owner)

    This book hit close to home. My own father spent his whole life just trying to get a tiny bit above dirt poor. He was the hardest worker I’ve ever known but sometimes it seemed like nothing he did could get him out of the poverty cycle. Great read and insight into generational poverty.

  4. ashleyjohnsonbend (verified owner)

    A little bit of everyone in this book, so important.

  5. Kkjarval (verified owner)

    Deeply enjoyed the writing style and descriptives this author used. I felt she was writing about my life even though I wasn’t from a poor family and raised in the city rather than a family farm. Coming from a family of matriarchs I could really identify. The author believed her escape was higher education and that was the main underlying theme. Student loans don’t put money into your pockets though, it actually does quite the opposite. Other than that, I absolutely loved this book.

  6. PamSilcox (verified owner)

    At times I did not understand some of their problems. I would think of a solution right away and not understand why the families in the book could not find that solution as well. A few days after I read the book, I was speaking with a sister and brother. The sister was graduating community college and the brother was just entering 8th grade. In our talks, the term “our family does not do that” came out several times. When I asked more questions I understood the reason they repeatedly told their children to just be content with what they had. Those “other things” were only for the rich or other people. As I reflect back on the book, it seems that one ever told the children to dream and believe that all things are possible. While the girl in the book noticed things were not the way she wanted, people never told her she could do what she wanted. Parents and other adults need to make children believe in themselves and dream outside of their box more often. The book will make you thing of your politics, how you encourage those around you and how small acts of encouragement can really change generations. Give it a try and make someone’s life.

  7. [email protected] (verified owner)

    I grew up poor; my husband did too. There’s no shame in that, as we felt when we were kids. Older kids understand the mockery of the other, more affluent children around them, and it stings. My husband and I have worked hard to leave that behind us, but this book took me right back and allowed me to view my parents in different light.

  8. [email protected] (verified owner)

    This book resonated with me in an unexpected way. I have so many things in common with Sarah Smarsh; grew up poor in Iowa, first generation college graduate. Mom moved frequently before she met my Dad; my older siblings moved all over the place and had several stepdads, some more than once. I was fortunate to live in the same house with both parents, but that lifestyle was not far removed from me. It was a powerful story about class stereotypes and how we never really leave those experiences behind… they make us who we are.

  9. sueone (verified owner)

    I enjoyed the book.

  10. Toby Abraham-Rhine (verified owner)

    “Heartland” was excellent, engaging, a page-turner that forces all of us to challenge stereotypes we didn’t even know existed. It was difficult to keep realizing how recently the events and situations in the book are portrayed. It was also incredibly enlightening, taking the reader inside the minds of our struggling citizens and how closely they live to the edge. The author raises so many thoughtful questions about how we are helping, or not, our lower income people.

  11. pargarita (verified owner)

    I really enjoyed this book– it was an important read about class, education, and future of farming in America. I thought the narrative about the young girl imagining her future daughter was a bit weird but I under the need to think beyond yourself or beyond your years in order to motive yourself to get ahead in tough situations. Would highly recommend. Gets better with every page.

  12. Jill Burch (verified owner)

    Great read

  13. Kiley Dozier (verified owner)

    a really nice and insightful read

  14. Holda Crocker (verified owner)

    Some books require reading in small doses because the narrative is so rich. In a chapter titled “The Shame a Country Could Assign”, Smarsh writes, “What really put the shame on us wasn’t our moral deficit. It was our money deficit.” I think about who does the putting, and the many possible answers.

    In this same chapter, Smarsh reveals “the defining intervention of my life” — namely, “public school teachers had noticed I was smart”. Presumably, they did something about what they noticed, and the result was life-changing. I wish the author had expounded more on this pivotal point in her life so we could understand why it worked — maybe someday Oregon and its school districts will realize that funding/implementing rural TAG programs could help students experiencing poverty to gain that first foothold for steps toward an expanded worldview.

  15. bmason777 (verified owner)

    Excellent book, very relatable. An interesting read that combines the personal and political problems of our nation’s poor, working class.

  16. Renee Brooke (verified owner)

    An interesting read. With the jumping around in timeline it took effort to keep track of all the family members and who was relevant in which phase of life.

  17. Marieflores2989 (verified owner)

    Very eye opening and worth the read!

  18. Ailiah Schafer (verified owner)

    Sarah shares a beautiful story of growing up with a family history of poverty, and her family persevered, and she overcame when odds were stacked against them.

  19. Carol Lauritzen (verified owner)

    Having grown up on a farm where we raised much of our own food, hoed weeds, and, as children, were important to the life of the farm, I could make many connections to Heartland.

  20. mingomom (verified owner)

    Such a great story, pulling on the heartstrings! My family can relate as we have been in certain situations scraping by just to make it through to the next payday. Great read and most definitely recommended!

  21. Vanessa (verified owner)

    The book is both moving and eye-opening, giving a voice to those often overlooked in conversations about economic hardship.

  22. Vanessa (verified owner)

    Really great book about growing up in a poor family in rural Kansas. Smarsh shares her personal story, highlighting the struggles and resilience of her family. She also explores the larger issues of poverty and class in America.

  23. karreen (verified owner)

    This was a really interesting book, and I enjoyed reading it. I grew up in a rural community and found this relatable for my personal family experiences and experiences of others I know.

  24. Cindy Fairclo (verified owner)

    Enlightening book. Enjoyed it.

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