Skip Links

dirt poor in america

Sarah Smarsh 

The 2016 US election brought the white working class to the forefront of the political conversation. Join Sarah Smarsh as she discusses her experience growing up poor and female in America. 

Hosted by Cassie McCullagh.

in the Playhouse

“Smarsh shows how the false promise of the ‘American dream’ was used to subjugate the poor.”

The New York Times Book Review

inside america's working poor 

The daughter of Kansas farmers, Sarah Smarsh grew up amongst the working poor in America's Midwest. Teenage mothers, chewing tobacco, the smell of oil and sweat. Her work of non-fiction, Heartland, is a vibrant picture of the working class, but also a sharp argument on the failure of the American dream. As the daughter of a teenage mother who was the daughter of a teenage mother; Smarsh considers how intergenerational poverty affects women in particular, and how she managed to break the cycle.

With compassion, humour and insight, Smarsh celebrates the American working class, while considering the role of her community in shaping of her country. Don't miss this amazing session which links economic and political realities with individual lives. 

More about ...

Sarah Smarsh

Sarah Smarsh has covered socioeconomic class, politics, and public policy for the Guardian, the New York Times, the Texas Observer, Pacific Standard, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, and many other publications. A recent Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and a former professor of non-fiction writing, Smarsh is a frequent speaker on economic inequality. Heartland is her first book, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize. She lives in Kansas. 

Cassie McCullagh 

Cassie McCullagh grew up in Sydney and is a presenter, journalist and writer. Since joining the ABC in 2007 she has presented and produced a wide range of programs for Radio National, Local Radio and Classic FM.

There's so much more...

man up
clementine ford, osher günsberg, vonne patiag
What makes sweet little boys grow up to become violent men - is "toxic masculinity" real? Join Clementine Ford as she turns her razor sharp attention to masculinity alongside leading Australian commentators including Osher Günsberg.
Talks & Ideas
the future of feminism
ayishat akanbi, aya chebbi, aretha brown
Feminism is evolving - so, where will it go next? Hear from some of the world's most dynamic young activists and thinkers about the what to expect in 2019 and beyond.
Talks & Ideas
never say nag
gemma hartley
Women have shouldered domestic responsiblity for too long and we're fed up. Join journalist Gemma Hartley as she brings a long overdue awareness to the daunting reality of emotional labourin our lives.
Talks & Ideas

Frequently Asked Questions