“Heartland”: a Book Review

I wanted to share my impressions of the book “Heartland,”  which I recently finished reading. 

From the very first page, the book captured my attention: the first page said that although we never admit that classes in America exist, they do. Moreover, whichever class you’ve born in shapes your life in a very significant way. Indeed, it is challenging, if not impossible, to break out of your class-instilled barriers.  

That we could live on a patch of Kansas dirt with a tub of Crisco lard and a $1 rebate coupon in an envelope on the kitchen counter and call ourselves middle class was at once a triumph of contentedness and a sad comment on our country’s lack of awareness about its own economic structure. Class didn’t exist in a democracy like ours, as far as most Americans were concerned, at least not as a destiny or an excuse. You got what you worked for, we believed. There was some truth to that. But it was not the whole truth.


The power of the book is that, on the one hand, it’s the author’s true story. Through the book, though it is not clear until the very end, the author explains her very personal decision not to have children by telling the life stories of the previous generations of her family. On the side of the storylines, she provides a very in-depth analysis of social and economic trends which led to the current situation and keep people from getting out of poverty. For me, the biggest revelation of the book was a discussion about why people who need help so badly might reject this help, and as a consequence, why poor people might favor republican policies. 

Society’s contempt for the poor becomes the poor person’s contempt for herself. 


People perceive receiving assistance as seeing themselves lesser beings, and it translates into “nobody believes I can make it on my own.”. So, controversially, if the fact that you are poor is “your fault” gives you the hope to get out of poverty. It may be just me thinking slow, but it took me some time to understand how this thought process works. And that’s my biggest takeaway. 

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