WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas writer who grew up in poverty is releasing a memoir she hopes will shine a light on an often-ignored part of the American landscape.

Sarah Smarsh's book "Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth" is scheduled for nationwide release Tuesday. The book is listed as a contender in this year's National Book Award for Nonfiction, the Wichita Eagle reported .

Smarsh, 38, said she chronicled her turbulent childhood in rural Kansas because such stories often go unnoticed. She comes from a long line of teen mothers, which she said helped her decide early on that escaping poverty meant avoiding pregnancy. Her memoir is addressed to a daughter she never had.

"America didn't talk about class when I was growing up," she wrote in the prologue. "I had no idea why my life looked the way it did, why my parents' young bodies ached, why some opportunities were closed off to me."

Bookstores are currently packed with stories about life among the working poor. But Smarsh said she wants to highlight more subtleties of class, culture and politics through her experience growing up in the 1980s and '90s as the daughter of a fourth-generation Kansas farmer and attending the University of Kansas alongside students with very different upbringings.

"The distance between my world and my country's understanding of it had been growing because so few people from my place ever ended up on a college campus and beyond to tell its stories," she said. "It was a distance I wanted to make smaller."


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com