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Lyon County Historical Society Receives Humanities Kansas Grant for Community Book Read

February 26, 2019

Humanities Kansas recently awarded $1,028 to the Lyon County Historical Society of Emporia in support of the Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland: A Community Read. Greg Jordan, executive director of the Lyon County Historical Society is the project director. The grant is a collaboration between the Society and the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University.

A panel discussion of Smarsh’s book, “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, at the Lyon County History Center, 711 Commercial St. in downtown Emporia. The event is free and open to community members of all ages.

“We are grateful for Humanities Kansas support of the book read program,” Jordan said. The grant will allow LCHS to purchase 40 copies of Smarsh’s book. These books will be available for checkout at the History Center and in the Center for Great Plains Studies, 307 White Library, the week of March 4.

“Community members are encouraged to read Smarsh’s work and join the panel on April 4 for a community discussion about the themes in Heartland and how the memoir might apply to Lyon County,” said Susan Brinkman, assistant director, Center for Great Plains Studies.

Panel members for the program include Sarah Johnson, assistant professor, ESU Libraries and Archives; Max McCoy, ESU professor of journalism and director of the Great Plains center; Marc McDonald, Rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church; Amy Scheller, Flint Hills Technical College nursing instructor; and Joelle Spotswood, director of the ESU Writing Center. 

“Emporia is appropriate for a community read and panel discussion of ‘Heartland’,” McCoy said. “Many of our audience will recognize themselves in Smarsh’s description of working hard and growing up poor in rural Kansas.” 

Smarsh has emerged as a leader for a new generation of Kansas voices, according to McCoy.

The Community Book Read comes just a week before Smarsh’s appearance at the Tallgrass Science and Nature Writing Workshop. Smarsh will deliver the workshop keynote at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at the Emporia Arts Center, 815 Commercial Street. She will also be part of the workshop faculty and will lead a session earlier in the day for participants. Additional information and registration are online at

Following Smarsh’s visit to Emporia, signed copies of the book will be donated to area public and educational libraries.

For additional information or to check out a copy of “Heartland,” please email the Historical Society at lycomu@osprey.netor the Great Plains center at

“Humanities Kansas supports projects that examine our shared humanity,” said Julie Mulvihill, Humanities Kansas executive director. “This book discussion about working hard and growing up poor - the themes of Smarsh’s book ‘Heartland’ — is a powerful prelude to her visit to Emporia.”


About Humanities Kansas

Humanities Kansas is an independent nonprofit spearheading a movement of ideas to empower the people of Kansas to strengthen their communities and our democracy. Since 1972, our pioneering programming, grants, and partnerships have documented and shared stories to spark conversations and generate insights. Together with our partners and supporters, we inspire all Kansans to draw on history, literature, ethics, and culture to enrich their lives and serve the communities and state we all proudly call home. Visit



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