Bestselling Author To Present Next Cook Series Event

New York Times bestselling author and Kansas native Sarah Smarsh will be the final Cook Series presenter on Thursday, April 11. The lecture, which is free and open to the public will at 7 p.m. at the Brown Grand Theatre in downtown Concordia.

Smarsh is an author, educator, 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,” examines historic economic inequality and tells the story of her upbringing among the working poor on a Kansas farm.

In addition to being a New York Times bestseller, “Heartland” was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize. It was also named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Shelf Awareness, Bustle, and Publisher’s Weekly.

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By ninth grade, Smarsh had attended eight southern Kansas schools, ranging from a 2,000-student high school to a two-room prairie schoolhouse. She has a master’s in fine arts in nonfiction writing from Columbia, as well as degrees in journalism and English from the University of Kansas. A former English professor and grant writer for social service agencies, Smarsh aims for all of her work to have a backbone of civic responsibility.

Her journalistic works and commentaries have been published by The Guardian, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper’s, and many other publications. Her essays on class and poverty, “Poor Teeth” and “The First Person on Mars” were both listed as notables in Best American Essays. She recently published a four-part piece in No Depression about Dolly Parton and the working-class feminism in country music.

Smarsh is a regular commentator in the national media and has spoken on poverty, politics, rural issues, cultural divides, and the future of news. She was recently a Fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, and will soon launch a much-anticipated podcast about class and rural America.

A limited number of copies of “Heartland” are available for purchase by contacting the Foundation office at Cloud County Community College or Brenton Phillips, CCCC dean of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Business, at 785.243.1435, ext. 244.

This year marks the 27th year of the Charles and Marian Cook Series at Cloud County Community College. The Cooks were travelers who wanted to bring the world to those who could not travel themselves. More than 75 events have been presented through the sponsorship of the Cook Foundation and the Division of Humanities, Social Sciences and Business at Cloud. IT was always Marian Cook’s wishes that all Cook Series events be free and open to the public.

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Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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