Writers Tara Westover and Sarah Smarsh grew up in rural parts of the mid-section of America and chronicled the stories of their childhoods in best-selling books. While the books vary in emphasis, structure, and theme, both writers agree that people in the Heartland are easily stereotyped by the national media and politicians. “There’s a real gulf between the story we tell ourselves about a country and those conflict- and ratings-driven conversations in New York City studios, and what happens on-the-ground in local communities,” says Smarsh. They tell James Fallows, author of Our Towns, about what needs to change to eliminate these damaging stereotypes. Smarsh and Westover also describe how they’re using their platforms to address some of the most complex challenges that rural communities face today. Smarsh is the author of Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Riches Country on Earth. Westover wrote the book, Educated.
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