Inder's Reviews > Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression

Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
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Feb 24, 11

bookshelves: memoir, farm, midwest, read-2011
Read in February, 2011

Not the best memoir on the planet, but absolutely, completely delightful. Packed with funny stories, recipes, cleaning techniques, and tidbits of Depression-era farm life. I enjoyed this more than I expected, and it is right up my alley.

Mildred (Millie) Armstrong (Kalish) is one of those people who remembers what it's like to be a kid in vibrant, hilarious detail. Her stories reminded me of my own childhood. Some things are universal: bullying, cliques, fart jokes.

One thing that really struck me was how little waste was disposed of in farm life ... compared to now, there was basically nothing that was "disposable" in Millie's childhood. They used everything. Over and over and over again if at all possible. They reused one piece of wax paper to wrap their sandwiches in ... for YEARS.

It's hard to believe that in 80 years, we have strayed so far from that ethos. And now we desperately need to return to it.

So while this book absolutely delighted me, it was also more than that - at times, it made me feel downright ashamed of how easily I buy a Pete's coffee and toss the cup, or throw out the delicious chicken grease after making chicken, or toss leftovers because I'm too lazy to put them in the fridge, or worst of all, fail to scoop out every drop of egg from the shell! Somehow, without ever hitting you over the the head with guilt, these lovely little vignettes make the wastefulness and greed of our "planned obsolescence" culture seem downright sinful.

I feel quite chastened.

I skipped Pete's this morning.

New rule: If I remember my reusable thermos, I can have coffee. If I forget it, no coffee, I have to make do with a mug of tea at work. And so begins a new regime.

I can't quite give this book four stars, because the writing is a bit too uneven for me to rank this alongside other, better memoirs, but despite that, I would heartily recommend this to anyone interested in Depression-era history, cooking, simple living, natural remedies or cleaning products, farming, etc. Which is to say, a lot of my friends! You will learn a lot, and really enjoy the ride.
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Reading Progress

01/11/2011 page 45
15.0% 2 comments
01/24/2011 page 132
43.0% "Not the best-written memoir, but absolutely delightful, and a great glimpse into everyday American history."

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Ha, this book is so up our alley. I did read the first chapter or so when it came out and it wasn't particularly memorable, but I'll still join the queue for your copy :)


Inder Yeah, it's a fun one to dabble in while you're reading something else. Can't believe you posted this comment in 2008! It took me a while to get around to it, huh?


message 3: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Fortunately, depression-era memoirs age well...


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