Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America
Gracie sees a chance of fitting in at her South Carolina private school, until a "white trash"-themed Halloween party has her steering clear of the rich kids. Samuel's Tejano family has both stood up to oppression and been a source of it, but now he's ready to own his true sexual identity. A Puerto Rican teen in Utah discovers that being a rodeo queen means embracing her heritage, not shedding it. . . .
For most of America's history, rural people and culture have been casually mocked, stereotyped, and, in general, deeply misunderstood. Now an array of short stories, poetry, graphic short stories, and personal essays, along with anecdotes from the authors' real lives, dives deep into the complexity and diversity of rural America and the people who call it home. Fifteen extraordinary authors - diverse in ethnic background, sexual orientation, geographic location, and socioeconomic status - explore the challenges, beauty, and nuances of growing up in rural America. From a mountain town in New Mexico to the gorges of New York to the arctic tundra of Alaska, you'll find yourself visiting parts of this country you might not know existed - and meet characters whose lives might be surprisingly similar to your own.
Up until my 20s, I lived in rural areas, and I became very familiar with the stereotypes growing up. I was so excited to read RURAL VOICES to see how they handled the stereotypes, and I was not disappointed. In this collection, the authors authentically grasp the nuances of living in more remote or isolated areas. It tackles everything from the struggles of getting consistent and fast internet to the joy of being surrounded by nature to the pressures to get a good education (to either leave the area or to come back and help improve it) to the sense of community and more. It dives into concepts of poverty and class, race, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity and how those aspects shape rural experience. If you go into RURAL VOICES thinking, consciously or subconsciously, that the rural way of life only looks one way, you won't after finishing it.
While I enjoyed each story, there are a few that are particularly powerful or enjoyable. Rob Costello's "The Hole of Dark Kill Hollow" has a fascinating supernatural element that echoes the unique myths and legends in some rural areas. It asks difficult questions of choice, identity, and sacrifice. "The Cabin" by Nasu?raq Rainey Hopson is an eerie story about the mysteries of things that go bump in the night as well as an exploration of family tradition and lessons passed through generations. Tirzah Price's "Best in Show" is about a teen girl getting her pig ready for the fair while also trying to figure out if her crush is queer like she is. It explores the stereotypes about 4-H and farm life. Being raised in Appalachia myself, I dearly appreciated "Close Enough" from the editor of the anthology, Nora Shalaway Carpenter and its on point story of a girl trying to figure out where she fits in and what it means if she leaves home for New York.
RURAL VOICES is an expertly crafted collection of stories from authors who speak to the experience of being rural, whether that's in New Mexico, West Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, or elsewhere. This is not an anthology meant to show that rural life is better than city or urban life, but rather to show how rural life can be good, bad, and anywhere in between. It has advantages and disadvantages that city/urban living doesn't have, but just like life in any geographic location, experiences vary and no area is a monolith.