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Download Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression Audiobook, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (3,257 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mildred Armstrong Kalish Narrator: Ruth Ann Phimister Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2007 ISBN: 9781436170741
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One of the 10 Best Books of 2007 (New York Times Book Review), Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s Little Heathens is a compelling memoir of her hardscrabble life on an Iowa farm during the 1930s. With no electricity or indoor plumbing and with little heat or money on the farm, Mildred learns to find joy in the priceless blessings of life. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Not only trustworthy and useful, but also polished by real, rare happiness. It is a very good book, indeed. In fact, it’s a very very very good book.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • Little Heathens is an enchanting but thoroughly unsentimental look at rural life in the Great Depression. In clear clean prose we are offered the grit, struggle, and also the joy of hard work on a farm. I cherish this book for its quite naked honesty and quiet lyricism about a time which makes our current problems nearly childish. This is a fine book.”

    Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall

  • “Unpretentious yet deeply intelligent…[Little Heathens] radiates the joy of a vanished way of life…In prose that never yields to mawkish sentimentality, Kalish details the roles of family, religion, thrift, and education in her upbringing.” 
    Booklist
  • “Both illuminating and memorable…Simple, detailed and honest, this is a refreshing and informative read for anyone interested in the struggles of average Americans in the thick of the Great Depression.” 

    Library Journal

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2007 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • One of the 2007 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leah | 2/20/2014

    " I expected this book to be filled with more struggle than it was. I really enjoyed hearing about farm life. It is a dream of mine to live on a farm like in the 40's and I felt like I was living my dream vicariously through Millie. Not incredibly interesting if you are not interested in farm life. However I loved it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Josh | 2/18/2014

    " Charming, interesting, and light. This cozy little memoir does something rare: recounts in detail a childhood spent on the prairie during the 1930s, without feeling sorry for itself. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Don Nissen | 2/17/2014

    " My Mom's mentioned in this book, which was written by her cousin! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maelou | 2/13/2014

    " I really liked this book, perhaps because I'm a converted Iowan. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tara S. | 2/5/2014

    " Intersting and nostalgic read about simpler, albeit more difficult times - raising a family during the Depression. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Erin Stone | 2/4/2014

    " Reading this book was like being trapped on a long bus ride with a chatty boring old lady. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caroline Henry | 2/3/2014

    " This book is a quick read and you get a feel for how life was on a farm during the 1930's. It made me appreciate all the technology we have today, because without it, we wouldn't be able to work or live. It also made me sad that probably most of these values these times brought are gone forever. The sense of community, families working together, and living with nature is something of the past. I really enjoyed this book! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tami | 2/3/2014

    " Started out liking it . . . then it turned into one of those "Ok, ENOUGH ALREADY" books for me. By then I was at the point where I had to finish it. By the end I felt chastised for not living a more frugal life & eating more butter. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 amanda miller | 1/30/2014

    " Pretty amazing little book...I always wanted to know how to make head cheese. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeanne Morigeau | 1/30/2014

    " An unique memoir of growing up between two very different households during the Great Depression. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cynthia | 1/26/2014

    " Charming memoir of day-to-day life of a child during the Great Depression. Interesting to compare and contrast the parallels to growing up in the Fifties. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan Matthews | 1/26/2014

    " This was an EXCELLENT episodic memoir. I loved it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Retha | 1/21/2014

    " Lightweight. I'm not sure why the NYT was so enthralled by it. It would never have made it through an MFA workshop. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caroline M. | 1/18/2014

    " I enjoyed reading this, but I was nagged by the family stories that seem to be left out of it. Her father's driven away from the family by her grandparents -- and she doesn't comment on it at all. Still, lots of great stories about farm life, and recipes I want to try... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Letha | 1/18/2014

    " I loved every chapter of this book because they brought back so many good memories of my youth in rural Missouri in the 1950s. The author's generous spirit and quiet nature shines through the pages. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Toddy | 1/17/2014

    " I loved it. It was inspiring to read about the author's happy, happy childhood and the lasting confidence and great values she developed, despite hard work and the privations of the Depression. She is a real character, and I'm glad to have gotten to know her! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sean | 1/14/2014

    " This was a book club selection. As many have said, the book is your grandmother telling you about growing up in the depression. Lots of interesting stuff, but it tends to ramble on and repeat itself a bit. Like listening to your grandmother, the stories are totally worth it, but you have to settle in and be patient. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle Morrow | 1/11/2014

    " The book was about the hard times, but that wasn't the focus of the book. It was about working hard enjoying the simple things and how to rise up during such times. I commend the author on illustrating these times in the light not just the dark. Well worth the read!! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kim | 1/7/2014

    " A couple of friends recommended this book. I should have read it and not listened to it. The reader was terribly slow and frustrating, as well as pronouncing many common farming words wrong. Plus, I could have skipped over the many recipies. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kirsten | 1/4/2014

    " The title tells all. A good reminder to be thankful that I don't have to wipe out the inside of the eggshell to get every drop of egg. I'm always fascinated by homespun housekeeping techniques. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eileen | 12/25/2013

    " How a family survived and in many ways thrived on an Iowa farm before electricity during the Depression. . . funny anecdotes, hearty recipes and heartfelt remembrances. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenn Merolla | 12/22/2013

    " That I could not live on a farm without electricity! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie Western | 12/7/2013

    " Entertaining, unsentimental memoir about growing up in the Midwest during the Great Depression. Got off to a slow start for me but picked up once I started listening to the audiobook in the car. A great remedy if you're finding yourself wallowing in Consumer/Digital Age concerns. :-) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Purlewe | 12/5/2013

    " A very nice memoir about growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. With plenty of hearty ideas on how to care for everything from the outhouse to tending chickens. Plenty of good old know-how and recipes. I found this a great tale of a time that doesn't exist anymore. I am glad I read it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kckottkamp | 12/1/2013

    " Sweet and light. My Midwestern roots really made me appreciate these stories from an Iowa farm. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shelley Swift | 11/27/2013

    " What a great book. I loved the look back on her childhood as the author talks about growing up in the Depression era. She doens't sugar coat life and gleans many valuable messages from her experiences. It has wonderful recipes in it as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carolyn | 11/20/2013

    " The author's memories of life on the farm during the depression remind me of my mother's stories; memories laced with laughter and thankfulness, even during very difficult years. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Fran Borhart | 11/19/2013

    " This book was an easy read, and it could be a good resource for vintage recipes and medicinal rememdies. There are chapters and chapters of ideas for food preservation. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bob | 11/1/2013

    " I would not like to go back to the 'Thirties' but there were good times and good 'things' that we could use today. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Virginia Walter | 9/27/2013

    " What a wonderful memoir -- full of telling details about life on an Iowa farm in the 1930s! The sub-title says it all. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mrs. Thistle | 9/18/2013

    " One of my favorite books! I love the pioneer spirit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 jen8998 | 7/20/2013

    " Engaging memoir but I kept thinking growing up during the Depression couldn't have been as fun as she makes it sound. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marty Kater | 4/2/2013

    " For every reader hungry to remember the good old days. Simplicity. Family. Courage. Strength. Humorous. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brittney | 3/23/2013

    " What a WONDERFUL commentary on life in the 1930's from the perspective of a child. A whole book on the daily events of life sounds boring, but it was so clever and well written, it was a joy to read. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 courtney smyth | 12/24/2012

    " I couldn't even finish this book. It was just a bunch of memories grouped into book form. Maybe someone from Iowa might enjoy it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jane Meyer | 12/20/2012

    " So funny, I learned about some of our family sayings and there origins "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Carol | 9/29/2012

    " I have heard my parents talk about the depression and life on the farm during those years; thus, I couldn't really get into this book. I found it a chore to finish it! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elena | 9/14/2012

    " Good documentation of life on the farm in the old days, but it's a rather dull read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Johanna | 6/22/2012

    " I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. It was amusing, well-written, etc. By the end, I was ready to be done. Certainly could've done with fewer recipes, too. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margaret | 6/22/2012

    " Beautifully written, detailed memories of the author's childhood. Mildred Kalish, grew up during the 1930's on her grandparents farm in Iowa. Every chapter is a treat! Great book for our Book Club discussion. Makes one want to simplify, simplify, simplify! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carrie Lindsey | 6/11/2012

    " Not a very exciting book but it does show the hard life of a farmer especially during the depression years. Light, easy reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Janna | 4/20/2012

    " Delightful memoir of the author growing up on a midwestern farm in the 1930s. Reminded me of my mom's childhood stories in many ways. We have many advantages in today's world, but we have also lost so much. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Teeni | 4/15/2012

    " Very interesting account of a former Garrison, Iowa woman about growing up during the Depression on an Iowa farm. I love this type of book! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tina | 3/17/2012

    " I loved this book. You are basically listening to someone's grandma tell stories from her childhood. I laughed (a lot), I cried (just once), and I thought about how much has changed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 12/10/2011

    " really great insight into the depression era. It made me feel blessed and lucky because the women in this time worked so hard. One chapter talks about idioms and wording of the day and I really enjoyed that, even with the parts that talked about swearing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lyndsay | 11/28/2011

    " A very interesting book about how things were done in the good old days. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 8/4/2011

    " Wonder and gratitude for lessons learned, especially the value of work. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jen Russell | 8/1/2011

    " ... made me realize that Iowa winters could be worse. I could not have heat and have to use an outhouse! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sara Moss | 5/30/2011

    " This is the perfect book to read aloud to kids! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 heidi. | 5/28/2011

    " To be fair, it would really be a 3.5 book. I enjoyed the stories, but had a hard time finishing the book. Perhaps because it was just full of reminiscing, with no strong narrative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ctb | 5/24/2011

    " Glad the NY Times convinced me to read this memoir, a genre I usually eschew. Anyone who spent any part of childhood living in the country or on a farm would enjoy this. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Erin | 5/22/2011

    " Reading this book was like being trapped on a long bus ride with a chatty boring old lady. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shelly | 5/18/2011

    " Thought of my grandma the entire way through this book. I even sent it to her when I was finished.... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judy | 5/14/2011

    " It had personal connections for me since my mom was raised on an Iowa farm during the depression. However, while the story was personal to me, the writing wasn't great, in my opinion. I now know more about outhouses than I ever cared to. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 5/7/2011

    " I really enjoyed this novel. It just reminds us what luxuries that we have today and how easy everything is. Makes you wonder if you could do. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shannon | 4/29/2011

    " I quite enjoyed this book. It was not so much a story as it was a collection of memories, but it was a good reality check to my lazy life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sam | 4/11/2011

    " I'm really enjoying this book. Having loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, this book feeds my love for true tales of hard-working people. Looking forward to trying her remedy for warts (let me know if you have any - warts that is).
    "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Nichole | 4/9/2011

    " Not what I expected at all. I found it more of an instructional book than a life's story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dan | 4/3/2011

    " Life on a farm in the 1930s -- straight forward and beautifully written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeni | 4/2/2011

    " This isn't the kind of book you'll want to sit down and read all the way through. It is more of a "list book".
    The author has done a lovely job of describing what made life hard, good, interesting and worth while growing-up on a farm in the 1930's. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Fran | 3/28/2011

    " This book was an easy read, and it could be a good resource for vintage recipes and medicinal rememdies. There are chapters and chapters of ideas for food preservation. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Shonni | 3/17/2011

    " I can't believe how hard people living on a farm had to work in the early 1900's. A real eye-opener, but a bit too detailed in some parts. "

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About the Author
Author Mildred Armstrong Kalish

Mildred Armstrong Kalish is a retired professor of English who grew up in Garrison, Iowa, and taught at several colleges, including the University of Iowa, Adelphi University, and Suffolk Community College. She now lives with her husband in northern California.

About the Narrator

Ruth Ann Phimister has appeared off Broadway and in numerous regional productions, including Life with Father with Robert Reed. She has also worked in television, film, and commercial voice-over.