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 - here's an excerpt of Heartland.