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Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth | Sarah Smarsh
46 posts | 47 read | 66 to read
A perfect companion to Evicted and Nickel and Dimed, Heartland reveals one woman's experience of working class poverty with a startlingly observed, eye-opening, and topical personal story. During Sarah Smarsh's turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the forces of cyclical poverty and the country's changing economic policies solidified her family's place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country and examine the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. Her personal history affirms the corrosive impact intergenerational poverty can have on individuals, families, and communities, and she explores this idea as lived experience, metaphor, and level of consciousness. Smarsh was born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side. Through her experiences growing up as the daughter of a dissatisfied young mother and raised predominantly by her grandmother on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita, we are given a unique and essential look into the lives of poor and working class Americans living in the heartland. Combining memoir with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, Heartland is an uncompromising look at class, identity, and the particular perils of having less in a country known for its excess. "Sarah Smarsh--tough-minded and rough-hewn--draws us into the real lives of her family, barely making it out there on the American plains. There's not a false note. Smarsh, as a writer, is Authentic with a capital A...This is just what the world needs to hear" (George Hodgman, author of Bettyville).
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Samplergal
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Something about economics. #nonfiction2020

Suet624 I liked this book. 2d
53 likes2 comments
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Addison_Reads
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Pickpick

Another great nonfiction read this year. Growing up in small, southern town to young parents who felt like if they just worked hard they'd somehow make it, made this book feel very familiar to me. Sarah's story is in Kansas, but poor families everywhere can relate to this struggle. The emotions mixed with true stories and facts makes it an incredible read.

Also works for my #Nonfiction2020 for Something about Economics. @Riveted_Reader_Melissa

Riveted_Reader_Melissa That sounds excellent! Another one I‘m going to add to my to-read list. 3w
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BkClubCare
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I‘ve decided I don‘t have enough books going at the same time. 🤣 Needing some nonfiction. Pie mentions on p. 9, 17, 57: baked pies, frozen pot pies, “taking the pies up to the funeral” #PieinLiterature
Esther assisting. #DogsofLitsy

JoScho ❤️❤️❤️ 3w
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Samplergal
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Pickpick

First book finish of 2020! Of course it‘s non fiction! Really an insightful look at being working poor. #2020

Addison_Reads I just downloaded the audiobook of this. I've been wanting to read it for months and my hold finally came through. ☺ 3w
BarbaraBB This was such a good read. And a hard one. 3w
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intothehallofbooks
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Bailedbailed

I had a difficult time separating myself from this author‘s story. I really disliked some of what I was reading so I DNF‘d after a few chapters.

I understand generational poverty acutely but I understand too about repeated destructive behaviors and how blaming others will not help. Maybe I‘ll try it again later, but I really need to be in a different frame of mind when I pick it back up, I guess. Maybe I felt some of what she was saying too much.

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Suet624
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“This country has failed its children, August, failed its own claims about democracy and humanity. The American Dream, in particular, sometimes seems more like a ghost haunting our way of thinking than like a sacred contract worth signing toward some future.” Amen to that.

#Vermont

Sace Just put this on hold at the library! 3mo
Suet624 @Sace I hope you like it. 3mo
BarbaraBB Such an amazing book 💔 3mo
Izai.Amorim So true and so sad. I read the other day that social mobility is higher in Sweden than in the US because everyone in that “socialist” country gets the same chance, free education from preschool to college, child care, etc. In the US your parents‘ class and social status defines yours. Time to elect Bernie! 3mo
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Suet624
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Pickpick

I understand complaints folks had with this book: her frequent conversation with her never-to-be-born child being the most discussed. However, I found this book to be outstanding in outlining class issues, naming them directly and providing historical details. Reagan did a number on the working class and for years people have voted against their own economic salvation. She did a good job telling her family‘s story which couldn‘t have been easy.

Hollie I‘m seeing her speak on Saturday! 3mo
Suet624 @Hollie that‘s awesome! Jealous! 3mo
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Hollie
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Pickpick

I related to so much of this book, having grown up poor in rural Kansas myself. Some of her observations were striking and insightful. What got old, though, was her constant references to her imaginary unborn daughter. She spent too much time congratulating herself on not becoming a teen mother, but overall, this was a pick for me. I listened on audio- I always love when the author reads the audio version. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

britt_brooke Nice review! 4mo
Hollie Thanks! 😊 @britt_brooke 4mo
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tpixie
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Reading this novel by a local author. In the vein of Educated and Where the Crawdads Sing. i‘m trying to keep an open mind. I think she does it herself as a victim more than a survivor

Megabooks I didn‘t care for this one and bailed. 5mo
tpixie @Megabooks If it weren‘t audio and I‘m in between book club books I probably would be bail also. I really want to read Educated. I‘m much more impressed with her story of empowerment 5mo
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InnerSavvy
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Pickpick

I enjoyed the stories as they brought back memories growing up on a dairy farm in rural North Dakota however I didn't like how she told the story talking to her daughter that she chose never to conceive. I still recommend though.

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teainthelibrary
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Happy Tuesday! I‘m spending my morning diving into this before I head to my job that overworks and underpays me. Coincidence? 🤔 Have a lovely day everyone 💕

JennyM Have a good Tuesday 😘 7mo
BooknerdsLife 😂😂 Wishing you a well deserved wonderful weekend 🙌🏼📚💖 (edited) 7mo
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BarbaraBB
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Pickpick

“The term ‘poor‘ is used to represent those without money, and it also is a descriptor meaning outright badness, as in ‘poor health‘ or ‘poor results‘. In a country where personal value is supposed to create wealth, it is easy for a poor person to feel himself a bad one.”

I learned a lot about rural #Kansas and growing up in poverty. Smarsh makes such objective and intelligent observations. I admire her and her family highly.

Librarybelle Great pick! 8mo
GatheringBooks i read hillbilly elegy a year ago and i have a feeling it will be a good book to pair with this one. 8mo
BarbaraBB @GatheringBooks I think so too but I haven‘t read that one. 8mo
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BarbaraBB
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Poverty described as a #GypsyRoad in my current read. An intense one, so far. #WanderingJune

saguarosally The other beauty of poverty is that since you have few possessions or ties, if you have a chance to get out, it‘s easier. 8mo
Cinfhen On my TBR 8mo
Crazeedi Must read 8mo
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RebL
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Yes, getting past this book as a letter to an unborn child is a thing readers must do. As the NYT suggests, “Forgive the baby.” If we do, this memoir feels right to this Plains girl, though I do not see myself as rural. Smarsh does acknowledge that being white is privilege no matter how poor.

vumblereads Curious to know what that green stuff is? I feel silly asking it. Is that pesto? 9mo
RebL @vumblereads Yup. Pesto. My daughter wants to eat it all the time lately. She doesn't like tomatoes in hers. I blame it on the tough skinned tomatoes she grew up with in the desert versus the ones I pulled off the vine in Oklahoma. 9mo
vumblereads That looks really good 🙂 and too bad your daughter is picky about tomatoes. My mom used to tell me eat your tomatoes so you‘ll have a natural rosy complexion 😂😂 I don‘t know how true that is but I believed her and I ate all my tomatoes 9mo
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KathyWheeler I‘m not fond of tomatoes although I like most tomato-based things. I will have to admit though that they sure do make your meal look pretty.😊 9mo
SarahHarts_books That looks so yummy!! 😍😍 9mo
tpixie @vumblereads yes!! Free radicals can damage the cells in your skin. This may increase your risk for wrinkles and signs of aging. Tomatoes contain antioxidants, such as lycopene and vitamin C that fight free radicals! 5mo
tpixie @RebL looks delicious!!! I lived in Wichita & this world 30 miles away is a whole other world 🌎 5mo
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JoyBlue
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Bailedbailed

I hated it before I even got through the author's note in the beginning, but I wanted to at least give it a chance. Now I've wasted an hour and it's still driving me nuts. Ugh! This is another one that hogged a precious spot on my Overdrive hold list for too long....

Drocchio03 Based on the stickers, it looks like you were on the fence about this one. 😉 ...I think you disliked it as much as I detested The Power of Now! 10mo
JoyBlue @Drocchio03 ROFL! 🤣 10mo
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Carissa-Green-Reads
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Enjoyed hearing Sarah Smarsh in my city last night. She is smart, insightful, and personable. A treat for me. #writersinthewild

tpixie She‘s going to be in my town tomorrow!! 8mo
Carissa-Green-Reads Nice! She was great! 8mo
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nomadreader
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Listening in preparation of her visit to Des Moines this spring #AViD

tpixie She‘s going to be giving a talk in my town tomorrow! In Hutchinson Kansas 8mo
nomadreader @tpixie My dad grew up in Hutch! 💙💙💙 8mo
tpixie @nomadreader small world 🌎 🇺🇸 8mo
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Nitpickyabouttrains
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Mehso-so

I think I went into this book with high expectations because there have been so many good books recently about growing up poor in America. But this one felt a little self congratulatory and seemed to skim over the details.

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Currey
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Pickpick

I found the literary device of speaking to the author‘s unborn (and unwanted) daughter too much of a trick but otherwise found this memoir to be insightful about the role poverty plays in limiting opportunities in the US. I also found her very gutsy and wild grandmother to be inspirational. #sjpbookclub

Cinfhen Great review 11mo
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AlizaApp
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Mehso-so

Her family story was interesting, but I am not sure I needed another story about poor/overlooked white people right now. And I was sort of thrown by the central conceit in which she addresses the whole book, in the second person, to a hypothetical daughter she never had when she was a teenager. (She was never pregnant, it‘s just to illustrate how she escaped the cycle of poverty.)

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Flyaway504
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"Economic inequality is one cultural divide that causes us to see one another as stereotypes, some of which allow the powerful to make harmful decisions in policy and politics." -- Heartland

This memoir is heartbreaking, powerful stuff.

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zsuzsanna_reads
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This #BlameItOnLitsy purchase came yesterday. Thank you @Hooked_on_books @8little_paws for recommending it!

Hooked_on_books Hope you enjoy! The beginning is a little weird, so push on through to the good stuff! 12mo
Prairiegirl_reading Currently listening to this one and it is really interesting! 12mo
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MyNamesParadise
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Pickpick

Throughout the book she constantly talks to a never-conceived, unborn poor daughter named August that while endearing at first quickly becomes old. this a Pick b/c i enjoyed the stories of the author‘s family & it shows the dysfunction & struggles poor women have to endure. Author narrates the book and she does a good job. A lot of statistical & factual info that shows how the Republican Party is not looking out for the common folk.

RebL I just checked my hold status—6 months. 12mo
MyNamesParadise @RebL oh wow! 12mo
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eanderson
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#bookmail I didn‘t realize that I won 5 books from @simonbooks so this was a great surprise! I‘m not much of a memoir person but I‘m curious about it! Thank you so much again Simon and Schuster!

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Hooked_on_books
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Pickpick

This went from a near bail to a solid pick. Try to get pass the mess of the beginning, the disorganized timelines and the weird “writing to my unborn daughter with whom I‘m not pregnant and don‘t want” to the meat of this book: the story of Great Plains poverty. Solid research on history with personalization of the author‘s family. This helped me better understand how some folks vote against their interests.

#ReadingUSA2019 #Kansas

squirrelbrain Sounds interesting - and great review! 12mo
Kaye Good for you ! 12mo
Librarybelle This one has received a lot of buzz - great review! 12mo
NatalieR 👏 Good review! 12mo
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TelevisionNeighbor
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Mehso-so

I wanted to slow down my reading this year. This book certainly helped with that. It‘s nice to read about my home state although I‘m not familiar with the particular area the book was set in.

tpixie I lived in Wichita and now Hutchinson and her World 30 miles away is a whole other world! 5mo
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MyNamesParadise
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1) Teleport- I could go anywhere & not have to pay for airfare!
2) I‘m a little more than halfway done the audiobook for Heartland by Sarah Smarsh.
3) To spend less money on frivolous things and to read more & post on #Litsy more! I‘ve missed this community terribly!
4) I want to check out #You, but I‘m a couple episodes into the final season of House of Cards. I work near one of the places they filmed in MD.
5) will do! #friyayintro

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Sills
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You won't be disappointed reading this gripping memoir-a National Book Award finalist. Sarah Smarsh's memoir of working hard and being broke in the richest country on Earth will shed light on the many challenges to break a cycle which devastates not just the Heartland but many areas in America. #Midwestpride
#personalmemoirs
#Breakthecycle
#whereyoucomefromshapesyou

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8little_paws
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Pickpick

Consider this a light pick. I struggled to retain interest initially, but found the back half much stronger than the front. Not totally sold on the conceit of writing to one's unborn child, still. This book reminded me of hillbilly elegy, only it's much better.

zsuzsanna_reads Hillbilly Elegy but better sold it to me! I loved the idea of HE, but didn't think it lived up to the hype. 12mo
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8little_paws
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Chilly night = blanket and new book.

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Jen2
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Pickpick

Wonderful!!!

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HotCocoaReads
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Pickpick

Heartland is about a girl from Kansas who grows up poor on a farm and gets herself out of the cycle of her family—teenage mothers—to be something more. Very interesting even if it was a slower read! I liked that it was set up as written to the unborn daughter who she refused to have, or really a version of herself that she didn‘t want to be.

BookBabe 😻 13mo
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Reviewsbylola
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Mehso-so

Talk about #debbiedowner. I am torn on this book, because the story itself was compelling but there were some fundamental flaws. The biggest one for me was the timeline. Smarsh tells the story of the women in her life—most were married multiple time. So it was difficult enough to follow in that regard but her timeline was non existent, which made it doubly difficult. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the flow of her story. #nofemmeber

Cinfhen Ugh, pet peeve - poor structure. I need things simple 😆 1y
emilyhaldi Boo 1y
MicheleinPhilly I was initially looking forward to this but then heard that she uses an imaginary daughter as a literary device. That put me off. 1y
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Reviewsbylola She does. Surprisingly, that part didn‘t bother me as much as I expected. She did not overdo it, so it didn‘t monopolize the text. @MicheleinPhilly 1y
merelybookish @MicheleinPhilly I agree with @Reviewsbylola about the daughter device. Initially I was uncertain about it, but by the end I thought it worked. 1y
MicheleinPhilly @Reviewsbylola @merelybookish Good to know. May still pick it up if I see it at the library. 1y
Billypar Yeah, I like a good solid structure. My current read doesn't have it, and I want to bail, but I'm still curious about what's going to happen. 1y
bermudaonion The fact that it was written to her unborn child that she never has was confusing to me at first. 1y
Megabooks Just seeing this. Heartland is up next for me, but seeing your review and the 20% rating makes me glad this is a library book! 1y
Reviewsbylola I‘ll be curious to see what you think of it! I had a lot of mixed feelings. I was supposed to see the author speak last week but her flight was canceled due to weather. I think seeing her in person and hearing more about her perspective would have been cool. @Megabooks 1y
Megabooks I read two chapters and decided I wasn‘t in the mood for this kind of memoir. It‘s not a forever bail, I think, but it‘s due back on Overdrive soon, so I just returned it. I added to my remember to read list, so maybe in a couple of months. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 1y
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PacingTheCage
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1. See above
2. 8 hours.
3. Milk Chocolate
4. Maybe once or twice a year. I cut my bangs when they start annoying me or my contacts.
5. Yes! I recommend it. I'm iffy on non fiction so sometimes, I need a catch and this one had it for me.
#HumpDayPost @MinDea

PacingTheCage @Lcsmcat As you can see, it's next! 1y
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PacingTheCage
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Pickpick

Thanks to some seriously bad muscle spasms, I stayed home today (hey, for what it's worth I've been having them for 2 weeks). I finally got a dr appt and decided to hang out and read until then. I'm glad I did.

I loved this book! There were a few confused moments for me but overall, very well written. And while subject matter is tough at times, she does a good job of easing you through it.
⭐⭐⭐⭐

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PacingTheCage
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Someone left a/their bookmark in this book. I think I will use it. #librarybooks

TrishB I would too 👍🏻 1y
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plemmdog
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On my nightstand. I was lucky to hear Smarsh speak this past week at a conference.

“It‘s a hell of a thing to feel—to grow the food, serve the drinks, hammer the houses, and assemble the airplanes that bodies with more money eat and drink and occupy and board, while your own body can‘t go to the doctor.”

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Redwritinghood
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Mehso-so

From the NBA shortlist for non-fiction comes this memoir about growing up poor in a “flyover” state. While I can agree with a lot of what she says about growing up in a rural setting, I sometimes felt she over-dramatized some of it. That in addition to the weird way of talking to her ‘daughter‘ throughout made this more of a so-so than a pick for me. 3⭐️

InnerSavvy This is sitting on my nightstand tbr. Not sure why but finding it hard to pick up. Thanks for your review. 1y
Megabooks I put it down for now after a couple of chapters, and you pretty much encapsulated why. 1y
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Redwritinghood
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Some astute observations in this book. “What it means to be country, though, has changed in the few decades of my lifetime, I think, from an experience to a brand cultivated by conservative forces.” As a former farm girl from a very liberal-leaning household, I see it this way as well. She goes on later to talk about how people trying to cultivate this image “have things my family never could have afforded,” ie, they didn‘t wear Carhartt to work

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Reviewsbylola
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#Costco haul today included one book for me. I saw the tagged book and had to grab it since I‘m seeing the author speak next month.

The Ron Chernow is for my dad for Christmas. I‘m sure he‘ll find it interesting if he ever reads it. 😆 It is soooooooo long so he may have to wait until he retires.

The Roald Dahl set is a Christmas gift for Genevieve. I‘ve heard these are fun to read aloud so I figured why not??

DivineDiana Gotta love Costco! 👍🏻 1y
Cinfhen Gotta agree with @DivineDiana 😍 1y
Pamwurtzler We‘re seeing him too, but there‘s no way I can read that book in less two weeks!! I‘m sure people will ask him about Hamilton, and I have read that. 1y
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LeahBergen I had several teachers who read different Dahl books to us in elementary and they are some of my fondest classroom reading memories. ❤️ 1y
emilyhaldi How could the Dahl books ever be a bad idea?? 1y
britt_brooke Nice!! 1y
Mdargusch I think the retirement idea is your best bet. 1y
93 likes7 comments
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HillsAndHamletsBookshop

I struggled at first to get into it, due to the odd literary device the author uses of talking to a nonexistent daughter, as other reviewers noted. But I stuck with it and ended up appreciating the author‘s perspective on middle American economic life and family challenges.

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Well-ReadNeck
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Bailedbailed

The author uses an odd literary device from the beginning. She purports to talk to her "daughter" in the telling of this story. She doesn't have a daughter, but it's the possible daughter she might have had had she become pregnant as a teen. Over the top. And, because this is, ultimately, marketed as a memoir, that device just makes me question her veracity and the lens through which we are viewing this story. #netgalley

Leftcoastzen Wow , that would kinda make me question it as well.Generally interested in this topic but..... 1y
MicheleinPhilly Oooh, I don‘t know about that. 😒 1y
minkyb Too bad. It looked promising. Your assessment seems solid. 1y
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Reviewsbylola
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So excited! A friend just asked me if I wanted to go with her to this event in November. Uh, YES!! 🙌🏻🙌🏻

emilyhaldi Who?! 1y
Reviewsbylola My friend Rachael. You can come too if you want!! @emilyhaldi (edited) 1y
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Coleen_Nieto

Just ordered this, can't wait to read it!!

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Mitch
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marianese
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Bailedbailed

I've read half of the digital galley, which I was grateful to get, but it's not for me. I prefer memoir with more scenes and more powerful sense detail than I'm finding here. I'd also like more specific grounding in policy that the author cites as so consequential to families like hers. Onward.

Reviewsbylola Darn, this one sounds so promising! 1y
marianese Give it a try if it sounds appealing! I may be the weird outlier. I did find her grandmas and mom pretty cool. 1y
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