Chapter

A Sweet Land That Never Was, circa 1994–2001

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.5810/kentucky/9780813130101.003.0006
A Sweet Land That Never Was, circa 1994–2001

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Chapter 5 argues that anxieties about culturelessness and the disappearance of authentic places during the Neo-Gilded Age beginning in the 1980s spurred the resurgence of literary regionalism at a time when the market expansion of the trade paperback novel opened up a new venue for regional writing. Customer reviews posted to the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites regarding four best sellers—Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford (1994), Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain (1997), Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap (2000), and Silas House's Clay's Quilt (2001)—reveal that they evoked for white readers ideals of home, hometown, home place, and ancestral homeland, though readers' precise interpretations depended upon their personal geographic histories and loyalties. Touristic, nostalgic, charmed Appalachian, and affirmed Appalachian readers embraced a notion of the region as protected from the consumer capitalism that permeated their own lives. Many relied upon Appalachian-set bestsellers as a means to participate in the era's search for roots, heritage, and identity. Despite readers' faith in the documentary accuracy of popular novels, the novels do not offer the diversity of stories that might allow them to satisfactorily fulfill their frequently assigned role as “Appalachian Studies 101.”

Keywords: amazon.com; customer reviews; best sellers; regionalism; Jan Karon; Silas House; Charles Frazier; Adriana Trigiani; trade paperback; Neo-Gilded Age

Chapter.  12961 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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