Great Plains Book of the Month

Each month the Center for Great Plains Studies features one book as its "Great Plains Book of the Month." We carefully choose books that are accessible and on topics of interest and importance for our region. They may be on any subject, of any genre, published within the last couple of years; occasionally we may feature a book published by or written at the Center. Mainly we want to bring attention to what we consider exceptional works both to learn from and enjoy.


November Book of the Month

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

By Sarah Smarsh

Details: Autobiography, Politics, Kansas

Publisher: Scribner 

Heartland is a memoir that combines personal narrative with analysis and cultural commentary. Smarsh describes growing up in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s and details the challenges faced by those who earned little money during a time of economic growth in other parts of the country. The account covers the poverty around her; problems related to medical conditions for lack of insurance or consistent care, unsafe job conditions, abusive relationships, and drug use. Smarsh touches on the Homestead Act, the farming crisis of the ’80s and Reaganomics, and how the false promise of the “American dream” was used to subjugate the poor.

“You might think that a book about growing up on a poor Kansas farm would qualify as ‘sociology,’ and Heartland certainly does … But this book is so much more than even the best sociology. It is poetry — of the wind and snow, the two-lane roads running through the wheat, the summer nights when work-drained families drink and dance under the prairie sky.”

— Barbara Ehrenreich, Author of Nickel and Dimed

Great Plains Literature book of the month

Past Great Plains Books of the Month:

American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains, Dan Flores

A Chorus of Cranes: The Cranes of North America and the World, Paul Johnsgard

Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, Karen Hansen

Wild Again: The Struggle to Save the Black-Footed Ferret, David Jachowski

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor, Joe Starita

Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota Before the Oil Boom, Richard Edwards

Towards a Prairie Atonement, Trevor Herriot

Walking the Llano, Shelley Armitage

Barnstorming the Prairie, Jason Weems

Homesteading the PlainsRichard Edwards, Rebecca Wingo, Jacob Friefeld

Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology 1867-2017, Edited by Daniel Simon

This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm, Ted Genoways