For many students, economic disadvantage is not just about lack of material wealth or opportunity. It is also a daily experience of shame in a culture that vilifies and even criminalizes poverty – attitudes that show up among their peers and even among some teachers and administrators. How can we help disadvantaged students receive not just knowledge and opportunity but validation of their inherent worth? Come join us as we witness this accomplished journalist, author, and New York Times bestseller tackle this thought-provoking and important question.
Sarah Smarsh is an author, speaker, and journalist who focuses on socioeconomic class and rural America. Her book Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, an instant New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award, examines economic inequality through her upbringing among the working poor on a Kansas farm.
Sarah has reported on socioeconomic class for The Guardian, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s, and many other publications. Heartland was named a “best of 2018” by NPR, Fresh Air, the Boston Globe, Amazon, Buzzfeed, Barnes and Noble, and Publishers Weekly. In addition to being short-listed for the National Book Award, Heartland was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, the Lukas Prize, the Indie Choice Award, and an Audie Award for Smarsh’s reading of audiobook. Actor-producer Sarah Jessica Parker selected the title for the American Library Association’s Book Club Central. Her latest work, She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs, was named a must-read book of 2020 by Time Magazine.
Sarah is a regular political commentator in national media and has spoken internationally on poverty, rural issues, and cultural divides at venues ranging from small-town libraries to Sydney Opera House. Sarah was recently a Fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. In 2019, Sarah released a podcast entitled The Homecomers, which focuses on how a national blindspot toward rural and working-class America is driving misleading headlines, broken politics, and dangerous fissures in our social fabric. The podcast showcases stories of people who, as residents or advocates, remain committed to their complex, embattled homes.
By ninth grade, Sarah attended eight southern-Kansas schools, ranging from a 2,000-student high school to a two-room prairie schoolhouse. Now, she holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, as well as degrees in journalism and English from the University of Kansas. A former English professor and grant-writer for social service agencies, Sarah aims for all of her work to have a backbone of civic responsibility.