Country to City, circa 1949–1954

Emily Satterwhite

in Dear Appalachia

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780813130101
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813135854 | DOI:
Country to City, circa 1949–1954

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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

Chapter.  13761 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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