The Big Read

Big Read

Buy Heartland! | The Big Read Activities | Faculty Resource | Community Partners

Owens Community College Campus Read

The goal of Owens Community College’s Big Read (Campus Read) is to bring awareness of different perspectives through books and accompanying activities on campus and in our surrounding communities.

This year’s Big Read is Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broken in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh.

Using her own experiences as the vehicle, Smarsh’s Heartland tells the story of many Americans who grow up in generational poverty and implores her readers to examine the class separation in our country.

Buy Heartland!

Wednesday, January 27 and Thursday, January 28
The libraries on the Toledo-area and Findlay-area campuses will sell Heartland at the circulation desk. Cost is $8.50. Cash and checks accepted.

Author Sarah Smarsh Visits Owens
Sarah Smarsh

Author Sarah Smarsh Visits Owens!

Wednesday, April 28
Toledo-area Campus
10 a.m. – Lecture
11 a.m. – Book signing

Findlay-area Campus
1:30 p.m. – Informal Discussion with Students and Faculty
Rooms TBA

Sarah Smarsh is an author, speaker and journalist who focuses on socioeconomic class and rural America. Her book Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, an instant New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award, examines economic inequality through her upbringing among the working poor on a Kansas farm.

Sarah has reported on socioeconomic class for The Guardian, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s and many other publications. Heartland was named a “best of 2018” by NPR, Fresh Air, the Boston Globe, Amazon, Buzzfeed, Barnes and Noble, and Publishers Weekly. In addition to being short-listed for the National Book Award, Heartland was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, the Lukas Prize, the Indie Choice Award, and an Audie Award for Smarsh’s reading of audiobook. Actor-producer Sarah Jessica Parker selected the title for the American Library Association’s Book Club Central. Her new book, She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs, published in October 2020.

Sarah is a regular political commentator in national media and has spoken internationally on poverty, rural issues and cultural divides at venues ranging from small-town libraries to Sydney Opera House. Sarah was recently a Fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. In 2019, Sarah released a podcast entitled The Homecomers, which focuses on how a national blind spot toward rural and working-class America is driving misleading headlines, broken politics and dangerous fissures in our social fabric. The podcast showcases stories of people who, as residents or advocates, remain committed to their complex, embattled homes.

By ninth grade, Sarah attended eight southern-Kansas schools, ranging from a 2,000-student high school to a two-room prairie schoolhouse. Now, she holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University, as well as degrees in journalism and English from the University of Kansas. A former English professor and grant-writer for social service agencies, Sarah aims for all of her work to have a backbone of civic responsibility.

The Big Read Activities*

Live Virtual Book Club

Monday, February 8 at 2 p.m. 
Join via Zoom >>
Meeting ID: 833 2009 8251 
Passcode: 5mCSNc

Thursday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m.
Join via Zoom >>
Meeting ID: 815 9784 9040
Passcode: vxt2mR

Thursday, April 29 at 1 p.m.
Join via Zoom >>
Meeting ID: 894 8513 4215
Passcode: En6yv1

Virtual Book Club via Discussion Board

Friday, February 5 through Friday, April 30
Questions are posted weekly on a discussion board for this virtual book club discussion group.
Email to join.
If you are already part of the discussion group, go to the Discussion Board. >>

Terhune Art Gallery Exhibit: Hiding in Plain Sight…Poverty

February 5 through April 2
Visit the Terhune Gallery website for more information.

Film Showing of Parasite (2020) w/ Q & A (Lead by Dr. Genesis Downey)

Wednesday, February 10
9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.
Stop by the Toledo-area Campus Library to watch the film. The virtual question and answer session will be held at 6 p.m. via Zoom.

Join via Zoom >>
Meeting ID: 863 1916 7790
Passcode: A31yuL

If you are interested in showing the film in your classes this day, please contact Jen Hazel at

Virtual Poverty Discussion

Friday, March 5
10-11 a.m. Link TBA
Featuring Sheena Barnes, Executive Director of Equality Toledo and Owens Alumna.
Join via Zoom >>
Meeting ID: 823 5880 9505
Passcode: rHnQr6

*Events may be adjusted due to COVID-19. 

Faculty Resource

For writing prompts in order to help incorporate the text into your classes, please see the Heartland Writing Prompts.

Community Partners

The Big Read community partners are Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Way Public Library and Wood County District Public Library.

Our community partners’ virtual book discussions:

Findlay-Hancock County Public Library – Monday, April 26 at 1 p.m. via Zoom. Please contact Melody at for the Zoom link.

Toledo Lucas County Public Library – Tuesday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, April 21 at 10 a.m.  Online book discussion >>

Way Public Library – Thursday, March 4 at noon. Online book discussion >>

Wood County District Public Library – Thursday, April 8 at 11 a.m. To register, email to call (419) 352-5050.

More Information

Jen Hazel
Professor, English

Jane Berger
Director, Library Services