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Dear AppalachiaReaders, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878$
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Emily Satterwhite

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780813130101

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813130101.001.0001

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Country to City, circa 1949–1954

Country to City, circa 1949–1954

(p.89) Chapter 3 Country to City, circa 1949–1954
Dear Appalachia

Emily Satterwhite

University Press of Kentucky

In Chapter 3, readers' responses to Harriett Simpson Arnow's agrarian Hunter's Horn (1949) and her migration-themed The Dollmaker (1954) illustrate white American concerns about mobility and “roots” that stemmed from the Southern Diaspora, rural-to-urban migration, and the mass suburbanization of the mid-twentieth century. Despite Arnow's reputation as the most authentic of the authors in the study, fan mail indicates that her novels became best sellers in part because they met the same readerly needs that popular regionalism historically met: the production of authentic place, the construction of imagined community, and the augmentation of power. Post-WWII-era readers interpreted Arnow's best sellers as narrating the possibility of an inward-looking, rural, and rooted community of belonging. Almost all of Arnow's readers—including cosmopolitan elites, midwestern professionals, and migrants—regretted “the disappearing closeness to the soil, the uprootedness of human beings” and inadvertently endorsed a kind of white nationalism that viewed a pastoral Appalachia as both home and as national homeland. Arnow's success anticipates the popularity of Appalachian-set fiction among outmigrants and their descendents into the twenty-first century.

Keywords:   Harriette Simpson Arnow, The Dollmaker, Hunter's Horn, fan mail, Southern Diaspora, best sellers, migration, pastoral, post-WWII era, regionalism

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