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SJP Picks

“From an early age, books were my constant companions and my local library a place I could find a new friend on every shelf.”

Heartland

By Sarah Smarsh

Why I chose this book

“I’m honored to announce the newest selection for Book Club Central, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh. Ms. Smarsh writes with authority and urgency about the entrenched deprivation of overlooked Americans born into poverty across the country. Her straightforward, empathetic storytelling is motivated by a deeply-saturated love for her family and Kansas home and brings readers into the heart of what it means to live with brokenness and resilience every day. I look forward to sharing this important book with all of you at your libraries.” ―Sarah Jessica Parker

Published by Scribner (visit website)

Click to Read an Excerpt.

Click for a Discussion Guide.

Booklist Review

“Growing up as one of the working poor has become a familiar theme of memoirs of late, but this book is more than a female-authored Hillbilly Elegy (2016). Smarsh employs an unusual and effective technique, throughout the book addressing her daughter, who does not, in reality, exist. Rather, she’s the future that seemed destined for Smarsh, the same future that had been destined for and realized by all the women in her family. Smarsh comes from a long line of women who married young, survived with barely enough money, and continually scrabbled along with low-paying jobs while trying to stay one step ahead of domestic violence or eviction. All of this was to be her legacy despite the strong work ethic, self-sufficiency, and pride that also run in her family. Smarsh was finally able to climb out of difficult circumstances, but her story is a trenchant analysis of the realities of an economic inequality whose cultural divide allows 'the powerful to make harmful decisions in policy and politics.' Elucidating reading on the challenges many face in getting ahead.” —Booklist

About the Author

Sarah Smarsh has covered socioeconomic class, politics, and public policy for the Guardian, the New York Times, the Texas Observer, Pacific Standard, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and many other publications. A recent Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a former professor of nonfiction writing, Smarsh is a frequent speaker on economic inequality and related media narratives. She lives in Kansas. Heartland is her first book.

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Photo credit: Paul Andrews

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Award-winning actor, producer, designer, library supporter and avid reader Sarah Jessica Parker is the honorary chair for Book Club Central. In this role, Ms. Parker selects books throughout the year to share her joy of reading and discussing good books with readers everywhere.

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