It is possible that I have overdosed on stories about indigence and the cultural divide, so for me, Sarah Smarsh’s message was strong yet her story felt repetitive. Smarsh tells us about her family and how their extreme poverty lead to generations of teenaged pregnancies, drinking, abuse, lack of education, bad or absent parenting, and all the while her family worked hard to live. We learn everything through the author talking to her unborn child – in my opinion, an unnecessary addition to this memoir which forces us to reevaluate how we look at our country’s class structure, often based on earnings.
According to the author, the government doesn’t even recognize the people who are below the poverty line. She says, “In college, I began to understand the depth of the rift that is economic inequality.” With self awareness and recognition of her past, Sarah broke the chain that was passed down through the generations of her family as she chose to avoid teenage pregnancy, and as of now, parenthood altogether.
Reminiscent of Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, and inclusive of some elements of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond and Educated by Tara Westover, Sarah Smarsh’s story felt like more of the same but is worthy if you can’t get enough!
About the author:
Journalist Sarah Smarsh has covered socioeconomic class, politics, and public policy for The Guardian, The New York Times, NewYorker.com, Harpers.org, Longreads, Pacific Standard and many others. A native of rural Kansas, Smarsh is a frequent speaker and commentator on economic inequality and the news media. She lives in Kansas.