Best-selling author to give Peace Lecture on culture and class in America

Best-selling author to give Peace Lecture on culture and class in America

October 26th, 2020

Sarah Smarsh

COVID put a stop to Sarah Smarsh delivering the KIPCOR Peace Lecture in person – but has opened it up, literally, to the world.

KIPCOR is the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Bethel College. The endowed Peace Lecture series was to have featured Kansas-based writer Smarsh last May, postponed until September and finally moved to virtual.

Smarsh will speak Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. (Central Standard Time) via Zoom. To hear her live, go to, click on the event and scroll to the “Register Now” button. Registered participants will receive the Zoom link in advance of the lecture.

Smarsh is the author of the New York Times bestselling and National Book Award finalist Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (Scribner, 2018).

In Heartland, Smarsh recalls, and reflects on, growing up in a German Catholic family of fifth-generation farmers just west of Wichita.

The lives of Smarsh’s parents and Smarsh herself have bridged “the destruction of the working class wrought by public policy” – death of the small/family farm, dismantling public health care, defunding public schools, wage stagnation that has kept people working fulltime from still being unable to pay their bills.

Heartland is an unflinching look at class and poverty in a nation that often touts itself as above both.

“I admire KIPCOR’s mission and am honored to join this esteemed lecture series,” Smarsh said.

“While I was greatly disappointed to not visit campus in person last spring as scheduled, due to the pandemic, it feels significant that the virtual event now falls just two days after the election.

“I look forward to discussing bridge-building, unity and healing from my vantage as journalist, author and former Kansas farm kid. KIPCOR’s values have never been more vital than at this fraught, divisive moment in our nation’s unfolding.”

Smarsh’s second book, released in October, continues with themes of class, identity and feminism, although the title and the cover photo of country music superstar Dolly Parton might not immediately conjure those.

She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs started as a series of essays for the roots-music magazine No Depression.

Smarsh uses the life and art of Dolly Parton – born into a poor working-class family in rural Appalachian Tennessee – as a lens for looking at the lives of similar but unsung women and to examine the intersections of gender, race and class.

KIPCOR invites everyone to hear Smarsh speak on “Bridging the Cultural Divide in Difficult Times” at the first Peace Lecture of 2020-21.

Smarsh’s lecture will be the culminating event in the first-ever “KIPCOR-athon,” a fundraiser marking KIPCOR’s 35th anniversary. See for more information.

Media sponsors for the KIPCOR Peace Lecture are KMUW-FM Wichita Public Radio and Faith & Life Bookstore of Newton.

Listeners who order a copy of Heartland from Faith & Life through the link on the Peace Lecture page at, before noon on Nov. 5, are entitled to attend an exclusive Q&A session with Smarsh after her lecture.