A memoir of journalist Smarsh’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, focusing on how the forces of cyclical poverty and the country’s changing economic policies solidified her family’s place among the working poor.
Because the author does not proceed chronologically, the numerous strands of family history can be difficult to follow. However, Smarsh would almost surely contend that the specific family strands are less important for readers to grasp than the powerful message of class bias illustrated by those strands ... A potent social and economic message embedded within an affecting memoir.
...this book is more than a female-authored Hillbilly Elegy. Smarsh employs an unusual and effective technique, throughout the book addressing her daughter, who does not, in reality, exist. Rather, she’s the future that seemed destined for Smarsh, the same future that had been destined for and realized by all the women in her family ... her story is a trenchant analysis of the realities of an economic inequality whose cultural divide allows 'the powerful to make harmful decisions in policy and politics.' Elucidating reading on the challenges many face in getting ahead.
...[a] candid and courageous memoir of growing up in a family of working-class farmers in Kansas during the 1980s and ’90s ... It is through education that Smarsh is able to avoid their fate; but while hers is a happy ending, she is still haunted by the fact that being poor is associated with being bad. Smarsh’s raw and intimate narrative exposes a country of economic inequality that 'has failed its children.' ”