The introduction links Appalachian stereotypes to the region's presumed rurality, isolation, lack of refinement, and sense of community. In popular fiction, these qualities have suggested Appalachia's welcome difference from the perils of metropolitan America. Section One discusses how fan mail illuminates the cultural work performed by best-selling Appalachian-set fiction for white readers in multiple eras: fiction produced Appalachia as a place apart; offered a sense of identity and community; and facilitated the circulation of power by promoting readers' status, pride in nation, and rationale for managing difference. Fan mail demonstrates that highly mobile cosmopolitan readers who feared the costs of upward and geographic mobility played a critical role in affirming an idealized version of Authentic Appalachia. Indeed, readers' physical mobility may have spurred the success of all literary regionalism; thanks to its comforting construction of rural places as rooted. Section Two examines readers' faith in authors as authentic representatives of regions and contends that it makes little sense to consider authors “insiders” or “outsiders” to fictional worlds they create. Section three advocates “reception geographies” as a methodological tool for assessing the historical consequences of texts. Section four contextualizes chapter summaries within an overview of popular representations of Appalachia over time.
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