On Class and Growing up Rural with NYT Bestselling Author Sarah Smarsh

Oct 11, 2018

I was knocked out by Sarah Smarsh's new book "Heartland:  A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth".  It woke me up to the fact that most of what is written about women, written about being rural, is coming from white men.  Sarah doesn't shy away from the fact that she is white, and what that means to her growing up.  But she looks at things like what the term white trash implies.  What being a teenage mother does to a woman in a rural area.  One of my favorite parts of our conversation was at the end when I asked her why she thought the book was resonating with so many people (it's on the NYT bestseller list).  She said:

I think that one piece of the puzzle is that what I have written is not a political argument or an attempt to say I'm right and someone else is wrong about the way this country should run.  I certainly have ideas about public forces and policy I'm ultimately just trying to paint a picture of human beings and the way that their private lives dovetail with public decisions made by more powerful people. 

This is an experience that people whether they're rural or urban, black white or brown, even middle class right now in an economically distressing time for just about everyone except the wealthy - that everyone can relate to.  In some sense it's been very heartening to meet people on the book tour - people of all stripes have said "my story is different than yours but the same". 

I think it's the sameness in the work and the sense that there is some sort of inherent injustice or unfairness about the current economic structure. 

Credit https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781501133091