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Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America

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An NPR Best Book of the Year
Country Living Magazine's Front Porch Book Club Book of the Month
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Think you know what rural America is like? Discover a plurality of perspectives in this enlightening anthology of stories that turns preconceptions on their head.

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.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published October 13, 2020

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About the author

Nora Shalaway Carpenter

5 books89 followers
Nora Shalaway Carpenter's novels and anthologies have been named "Best of the Year" by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, Bank Street Books, and A Mighty Girl, and have won accolades including the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, the Whippoorwill Award for authentic rural fiction, and the Nautilus Award championing "better books for a better world." She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and serves as faculty for the Highlights Foundation's Whole Novel Workshop and Intro to Short Fiction class. Learn more at noracarpenterwrites.com.

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5 stars
166 (21%)
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316 (41%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 166 reviews
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,226 reviews872 followers
August 5, 2020
On my blog.

Rural Voices for me is overall a good anthology. Each story brings something new to the table and there was a great variety of them. It’s just that there were only a few stories I had strong (positive) feelings about.

The (Unhealthy) Breakfast Club / Monica Roe / 3 stars

Rep: wheelchair user character, Black character, Latina character

Like with many stories in this anthology, the opener is one that I liked, but I don’t really have much to say about it. It’s got well-rounded characters who are established well enough in the short time you get with them, and it’s definitely one that I would want to see a full novel out of.

The Hole of Dark Kill Hollow / Rob Costello / 3.5 stars

Rep: gay mc

CWs: homophobic slurs & violence

This is about the only not-entirely-contemporary story of them, about a wormhole-type-thing that you jump into and it’ll grant your wish but also take something from you. I loved that idea, and the way Rob Costello built up the tension of will these characters jump was so good. Again, one I could see wanting a novel from.

A Border Kid Comes of Age / David Bowles / 3 stars

Rep: bi Mexican American mc

In general, I struggle with stories told in verse, because the poetry is always more simplistic than I would pick to read poetry for the sake of poetry. It’s like that here, but it is also very evocative, and I did like the changing style with each section.

Fish and Fences / Veeda Bybee / 4 stars

Rep: Laotian American mc, Korean American side character

This one has to be my favourite of the whole anthology. It’s a pretty simple story, but the whole trope of person A thinks person B hates them, but person B also thinks person A hates them, when neither of them hate the other anyway? It’s so good, and it’s so excellent here I just wanted a full-length novel out of it all.

Close Enough / Nora Shalaway Carpenter / 2.5 stars

Rep: lesbian character

I guess this was the first story that kind of let me down. It really just felt like a lecture on rural stereotypes more than anything. Which would have been fine if it were slightly better integrated into the narrative. Or if anything really happened besides said lecture. The potential romance was cute though.

Whiskey and Champagne / S. A. Cosby / 2.5 stars

Rep: Black mc

Another one I don’t have particular feelings about really. The writing was good though, and it’s definitely made me interested to pick up S. A. Cosby’s upcoming thriller.

What Home Is / Ashley Hope Pérez / 2 stars

Rep: Latina mc

CWs: suicide, implied suicide attempt

Again with the poetry, and the same reasons as the earlier one why it didn’t really work for me. Only this one felt kind of bland on top of all that.

Island Rodeo Queen / Yamile Saied Méndez / 3 stars

Rep: Puerto Rican American mc

Yet again, I don’t have many feelings about this one. It was cute and the writing was good, and I do think it’s the kind of concept that I would pick a full-length book up based on. I mean, rodeo queen contest and the mc is determined to win? It’s definitely one that I’d say might work better as a book than a short story.

Grandpa / Randy DuBurke / n/a

Rep: Black mc

I didn’t rate this one because it’s an unfinished comic (the art, that is), but I liked what I saw of it at least.

Best in Show / Tirzah Price / 3 stars

Rep: lesbian mc, Colombian American wlw li

Honestly, this f/f story was the reason I wanted to read this anthology at all (I am a simple reader at heart). And it was definitely cute, easily one I could see wanting a whole book of. But it was also not much more than that.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Little Debbies / David Macinnis Gill / 2 stars

CWs: animal death

This one was just strange to be honest, and I really don’t know how I feel about it, beyond slightly odd. It’s about a kid who goes to Sunday school, his dog gets run over by the school bus and then the driver (who is also somehow involved in the school) gives him a new puppy. Except the puppy is dying. So, like I said, strange.

The Cabin / Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson / 3 stars

Rep: Inupiaq mc

This was a really creepy little short story, about a girl who is trapping in the woods when a creature approaches her cabin. Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson is so good at building that tension with the creature trying to get in. I think the only thing I’d say is that it felt as if it would benefit from being longer, but again, one I’d read a novel version of, for sure.

Black Nail Polish / Shae Carys / 3 stars

Rep: mc with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

Back to having not so much to say now. This one was about a girl who gets diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It was good, definitely, and I could easily see it as a longer story (and perhaps I would have liked it more if it had been longer, I don’t know).

Secret Menu / Veeda Bybee / n/a

Rep: Thai American mc

Again, art not complete, so I didn’t rate, but it seems cute.

Pull Up a Seat Around the Stove / Joseph Bruchac / 4 stars

I initially thought this was another fiction story, to be honest, but it’s not. It’s nonfiction, sort of autobiographical but not a whole-life kind of autobiography. And, I don’t know, maybe I’m in the mood for nonfiction more than fiction at the moment, but this was probably my second favourite piece in the whole anthology.

Home Waits / Estelle Laure / 3 stars

Well. I liked it. I just, again, do not have much else to add to that.
Profile Image for talia ♡.
1,031 reviews200 followers
May 1, 2021
THE (UNHEALTHY) BREAKFAST CLUB - 3/5 this was one nice but not very striking. it seemed a little bit self-indulgent and like a fictional dream where the underdog stands up to their bullies who immediately cower in shame and suffer from a lack of comebacks. it almost read like a c.2013 tumblr post where "and then EVERYBODY clapped!"

THE HOLE OF DARK KILL HOLLOW - 5/5 this story knocked the wind out of me. this is EXACTLY what i wanted out of this anthology - it's like Costello wrote the short story i always pictured but could never write down. honestly, i was so struck by this one, i googled Rob Costello, hoping that he has other books of his i can read. no books yet, BUT his website does have several short stories that he has written so i spent like 3 hours reading those. cannot wait for his upcoming short story "Whatever Happened to the Boy Who Fell into the Lake?" - i just know i am going to absolutely love and devour that one!!

A BORDER KID COMES OF AGE - 3.5/5 absolutely lovely short story written in verse, with themes of intersectional identities from living as a Catholic, Queer, Tejano teen in rural texas.

FISH AND FENCES - 3.5/5 as a child of immigrants, this one was important and utterly charming.

CLOSE ENOUGH - 4/5 on this round of "Is the story actually good? or does it simply feature a West Virginian love interest with "eyelashes the color of pine" and a smile that is described to be "summer"? (it's both)

WHISKEY AND CHAMPAGNE - 3.5/5 excellent stuff and i really wanted more!

WHAT HOME IS - 5/5 "Home is the boy named Jonathan and the long hair he cuts away in the fourth grade; it is the teacher who cries when Jonathan plays the piano in the chapel because it is so beautiful." this sentence makes me want to die (affectionately and complimentary). this story made me feel a million different emotions in ten pages and then i ended up weeping.

ISLAND RODEO QUEEN - 3/5 this one just wasn't a favourite or very outstanding to me.

GRANDPA - 4/5 making this into a graphic strip was SO COOL! and the story itself was incredibly melancholic and sweet :')))

BEST IN SHOW - 4/5 the fact that i am not currently flirting with a cute girl that i've been pining over for a year while i wash my star pig Hector in order to get him ready to win first prize at the fair...sick and twisted. also, i CANNOT believe that the main character literally said these words to her crush: "I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm kind of weird." *war flashbacks*

PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS THE LITTLE DEBBIES - 4.5/5 goddamn i liked this one.

THE CABIN - 3.5/5 woah

BLACK NAIL POLISH - 4/5 i think because i am literally starving for YA stories with main characters who have physical disabilities, then maybeeeee i am rating this story higher than what it's worth. although, it is a HELLA good one!

SECRET MENU - 2/5 okay?

PULL UP A SEAT AROUND THE STOVE - 4/5 this was a really cool excerpt from Bruchac's personal life.

HOME WAITS - 4.5/5 an absolutely fantastic ending story to this anthology. i got real I'll Give You The Sun vibes from this one, which is like, what i am all about.

i have literally been begging and praying for more YA books that are about/take place in rural America/Appalachia because we NEED those voices! young rural people NEED to see themselves in this genre! i feel like this anthology was a wonderful (beginning) answer to my pleading. i cannot wait for more Rural/Appalachian YA publications in the future.
Profile Image for Gary Anderson.
Author 0 books88 followers
October 2, 2020
In Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions about Small-Town America (Candlewick Press, 2020), editor Nora Shalaway Carpenter, author of The Edge of Anything (Running Press Teens, 2020), presents fiction, poems, comics, and personal essays about the intersectionality of rural life and other identity issues, including race, poverty, mental health, physical difference, and gender orientation. Rural Voices includes established young adult authors such as Joseph Bruchac, David Macinnis Gill, and Ashley Hope Pérez, as well as talented new or up-and-coming writers. (I need to read more S. A. Cosby!)

With so much of contemporary young adult literature focused on urban and suburban youth experiences, Rural Voices offers sixteen short works about young people growing up in “a community consisting of ten thousand people or fewer that is a significant driving distance from an urban area.” These brave characters, and in some cases the authors themselves, are confronted with stereotypes of rural life that assume they are poorly educated, missing teeth, or backwards in other ways. The pieces selected for this collection reveal that the common ground is more likely to include closeness with nature, a small number of very close friends, family members who depend on each other, passion and ability developed from a young age, and spiritual searching that either embraces or rejects local religious traditions.

The variety in this collection will reward young readers who go through the entire book. They will read about ghosts and other spooky situations, complicated romances and relationships, one-of-a-kind relatives, friendly and unfriendly animals, and a wide range of emotional experiences.

Short stories and essays are literary forms that are often taught but rarely find their ways into students’ hands for independent reading. Rural Voices is the perfect way to bridge that gap as its stories serve as both mentor texts and satisfying page-turners. I hope teachers and librarians will help readers in all kinds of communities discover this important collection.
Profile Image for Jypsy .
1,524 reviews57 followers
October 19, 2020
Thank you Candlewick for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

Rural Voices
By: Nora Shalaway Carpenter, et. al.


As a person born and raised in the deep South, this collection is familiar to me. Where I live, there are rednecks, white trash, trailer trash, farm animals, backroads, poverty and places in the woods where no one goes. I understand how and why misconceptions exist about this part of the world and its people-it is like a different planet. Of course, trailer trash, etc. are found all over the United States, not just in the southern section.

I am glad to have found an anthology of short stories, poems, graphic stories and more that readily tackles the assumptions and preconceived beliefs aimed at rural communities. This is not a topic of concern for most people, so literature is simply not available. Like any collection, some works were spot on while others missed the mark. As a whole, Rural Voices is a diverse composition, centered around young adults, of ideas representing lifestyles, people and cultures that are not well known and are usually portrayed inaccurately.

Here is an example of judgment based on ignorance and arrogance. My husband's best friend lives in the D.C./Baltimore area. We were visiting him and stopped at a gas station. My husband has a pronounced southern drawl. He went in the store to pay. Some random, local, northern guy in the store went out of his way to be extremely rude and make fun of everything my husband said. It was unprovoked, immature and unwarranted. It's incidents like this that are ridiculous. Don't be like this guy! Don't project ignorance into the world with your assumptions about strangers. Educate yourself, instead.
Profile Image for Erin Cataldi.
2,242 reviews83 followers
August 4, 2020
I devoured this collection of stories about small towns, back roads, first love, show pigs, college, and teens. First off I really appreciated the diversity in this collection: Black, LatinX, LGBTQ, indigenous teens, a wheelchair user, and teens from other walks of life really helped round out this collection and help make it fresh. Second off the authors all had compelling and heartfelt stories that grab readers attention with only a handful of pages. The stories, poems, and comics take place all over the United States in small rural communities and help challenge the way that many Americans view them. These teens aren't uneducated hicks - they've got full and unique lives ahead of them. Personally, I loved every story and I couldn't even narrow it down to which one was my favorite. An excellent collection I will definitely pick up again!
Profile Image for Bonnie G..
1,363 reviews215 followers
January 2, 2022
This is a Middle grades anthology which is wrongly labeled as being YA. There are few stories that could be YA but are also appropriate for middle grade readers and nearly all of this is pitched to the 14 and under crowd. The anthology seeks to dispel misconceptions about rural life in America. This is a subject that means something to me. After living my life in cities I moved to North Dakota for two years. I was in my 50's and I learned that much of what I thought I knew about being an American was wrong. It never occurred to me that people had options and chose rural life. It never occurred to me that people left and then came back. No one ever taught me, a city kid, any of that.

A few other incorrect things I thought before moving to Fargo:

Communities in rural America are composed of all whites of European descent or all Africans-Americans (definitely not true -- Fargo has a very large Somali community and a sizeable Native American population and when I lived in Atlanta I learned that in North Georgia many rural communities are quite integrated and in many the majority of inhabitants are Latinx, of course this diversity exists across rural America);

LGBT+ people all move to cites as soon as they can or they remain in the closet, (Fargo has a surprisingly strong LGBT+ community and I was particularly surprised to meet many out and proud trans and gender non-binary people when I lived there);

Rural people do not embrace education. (When living in North Dakota I met more people with Master's degrees than without, including many full-time farmers.)

I could list many more things here, but my point is that in my experience most urban dwellers in America don't know a darn thing about most rural dwellers in America so I was thrilled to discover this collection of pieces from rural people of different races, ethnicities, economic strata, sexual orientations, gender identities and ages. Extra points because in the 2022 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge has a prompt to read an anthology with diverse contributors, and this absolutely counts!

The (Unhealthy) Breakfast Club – 5
This felt like a strong and direct depiction of life for rural kids whose lives bleed into nearby urban life (the good and the bad)

The Hole of Dark Kill Hollow – 4
Touching, atmospheric, very middle grades

A Border Kid Comes of Age – 5
Story partly in verse. Really quite good. I like to see good intersectionality.

Fish and Fences -5
Laotians in Idaho, these are people I never knew, and I love the intimacy of this tale, and the kindness that it shows

Close Enough -5
I love how this addresses the small-mindedness of determining people's belonging by how long “their people” have been in a place along with the way in which urban people devalue rural conventions (like camp pants and 4H). This is not anti-WV, but it is also honest and there is some real clarity, real reckoning. And the behavior is age-appropriate

Whiskey and Champagne -3
It’s a good story, but it doesn’t much figure in to the theme of the compilation and the ending is too pat

What Home Is -3
Eh. Maybe I just don’t fully appreciate poetry? Its just really really obvious. I hate not fully embracing a story of many good things but also molestation and repression

Island Rodeo Queen – 5
A Puerto Rican rodeo queen in Utah! Well written and a story I didn’t know

Grandpa – 2
Aimed WAY too young for this collection. Early grades appropriate, and sweet for that demo

Best in Show- 5
Adorable young love between lesbians in rural Michigan. I found this incredibly touching and complicated and realistic

Praise the Lord and Pass the Little Debbies-5
I lived in Atlanta for 16 years, and this feels like an excellent illustration of why I stay the hell out of rural Georgia for the most part. Isolated people who have abandoned all hope and overly and falsely friendly people who find it acceptable to strongarm people into being “saved.” That is real

The Cabin--2
A voice I haven’t heard, but also really boring and challenged none of my assumptions

Black Nail Polish-4
This is interesting, but I am not sure what makes this a rural story. It happens in rural Indiana but genetic disorders are not a neighborhood specific thing

Secret Menu - 2
Aimed at preschoolers. Had it been a picture book for small children with simpler more colorful illustration rather than part of this collection aimed at older kids I think it would have been really good

Pull Up a Seat Around the Stove -3
I appreciated it intellectually – I got why these stories are important and subvert many expectations about Native American ancestral history. It is in that sense a valuable part of this collection, but it honestly bored me and I found it almost mechanically direct and spare until it shifted about 1/3 of the way in when it suddenly became rather flowery

Home Waits -2
Interesting. I think the point is that being from New Mexico is like being schizophrenic and that there are not a lot of native Spanish speakers in New England boarding schools. I am only being a little facetious. I know the point is that being educated at New England boarding schools and Ivy colleges is not inherently better than learning about crystals and aromatherapy in New Mexico, Perhaps I am not open-minded enough for this one?
Profile Image for Jill.
709 reviews19 followers
June 18, 2020
Rural, for the purpose of this book, as defined in the introduction, “refers to belonging to a community consisting of ten thousand people or fewer that is a significant driving distance from an urban area.” As someone who grew up and continues to live in Iowa, this book was intriguing to me.  Many think of my state as a “flyover state,” with nothing to offer but corn and cows.  As such, I was drawn to this read and was not disappointed or even surprised by the stories each author brought to this compilation.

15 authors spanning across rural America come together in this enchanting read. Based on their experiences living in small towns of America, they open their lives and their towns to the readers, showing us not only a piece of their heard, but the culture of their town.

15 short stories capture the similarities, differences and struggles of rural America and the stereotypes that often come with such a label. Some authors within provide glimpses at the “differentness” of small town residents and lower income people, while others open our hearts to the love and passion they all have for their rural upbringings. But ALL authors show another side of small town living, breaking the stereotypes and inviting us in.

*Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.  All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Katy O. .
2,317 reviews723 followers
December 23, 2020
I’m a rural girl born and bred with a few very brief blips living in larger towns over the course of my 40 years ....... meaning this book was written for my heart. As with any diverse collection such as this, there will be winners and losers for every reader, but I was impressed that there was only one story I didn’t care to read in its entirety (skimmed) and despite one story that traumatized me, overall it is a super solid collection.

The back matter with paragraphs written by the authors about their own rural experiences are must-reads. I hope HS teachers pick this up and choose a few stories to have their students experience - there’s some really powerful stuff here.
Profile Image for Julie Suzanne.
1,919 reviews70 followers
August 23, 2022
This was an okay collection of short stories and personal anecdotes...it's award-winning so what do I know? I LOVED the poem "What Home Is"; it is one that caused my jaw to drop. Joseph Bruchac's personal narrative is enjoyable to this 40-something adult who loves his work and who he is but I'm not sure how much of it will be relatable to the youth of today (hopefully it is!). My third favorite was Home Waits. One message I liked that appeared in several of the pieces is that not all rural kids want to or need to leave to "make something of themselves." We city folk tend to think that way (I was an urbanite at one time). Readers will have that assumption challenged.

I teach in a 99% Caucasian rural population. I didn't find so much representation of kids like mine in this book, however. There was one that had a girl who loved showing her pigs that quickly become bacon at the county fair, and that was the one that felt most like my kids here. But throughout most of the selections, there was a TON of diversity, including kids super into academics, multiple ethnic heritages, abilities, and sexualities, and my gun-toting nationalist boys who are waiting for school life to be over so that they can devote full time to their farms, dirt-biking, 4-wheeling, drinking, and hunting will not find themselves here. You'll get the message that rural life is just more beautiful than urban life but that everyone here is perfectly content to stay and build their culturally diverse lives in their rural settings. It was good, glad I read it, but I don't see it being something my rural students will love. I'll still recommend it because the experts disagree. Maybe I'm totally wrong.
Profile Image for Simone.
134 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2020
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book.

I have mixed feelings about this book. With probably all anthologies, there will always be stories that you like and stories that you don't like. In this case, I the stories that I didn't like are actually overwhelming my thoughts right now. I have done the math though and figured out that my individual ratings would come up to 3 Stars overall.

I have to be honest, I expexted a lot of stories like the first one. Kids who are smart and capable. I wasn't ready for sexual abuse or farming (even though for the last one I really should have been, that's my bad). So I think a lot of my thoughts on these stories come from a very personal place. E.g. I can identify and emphasise with the chronically ill kid and the kid with mental health issues and even with the queer kids due to my diverse friend group. I cannot emphasise with farming. Or rather... with the animal portion of it because I think it should stop. I think we're "intelligent" enough as a species to not eat dead animals or take their milk that's intended for their children.

So bare that in mind when reading my reviews.

I did love the variety of stories and the diversity in them. As someone from a country where especial cultural diversity is not that prominent, I love reading these stories and celebrating cultures I do not know as much about as I do my own. For that I thank you.

The (unhealthy) Breakfast Club by Monica Roe (4 Stars)
I loved this story. There was a lot of different rep in here, including BIPOC and disabled rep and I was living for it. The story of these kids being thrown together just to car share before they find out that somehow they have actually gotten to be friends over time absolutely gives me some fantastic Breakfast Club vibes.
The Hole of Dark Kill Hollow by Rob Costello (4 Stars)
Loved this little mystery/fantasy adventure. I had a great time reading about this story. The gay rep was fantastic and the thought process and dialogue that goes on between these boys – these best friends – as they try and figure out what the worst thing was that could be taken from them was powerful and absolutely fantastic.
CW: homophobic language, death by cancer (off page)
A Border Kid comes of Age by David Bowles (2,5 Stars)
I am not really one for stories in verse but I did like the story that was told within this. I realise that this is a personal preference and I like the writing style. If it had been a normal story I am sure I would’ve rated it higher.
Fish and Fences by Veeda Bybee (4 stars)
This was nice. I liked reading it and I especially loved the bit where everyone did things they actually didn’t want to do because they thought they would spare the other party uncomfortable feelings. It goes to show that honesty is always the best way after all (even though I am totally guilty of doing things like these as well)
Close Enough by Nora Shalaway Carpenter ( 4 Stars)
I really liked this one! It was incredibly cute and charming and whimsical and I was entertained all the way through.
Whiskey and Champagne by S A Cosby (4 Stars)
This story was lovely. It was super clever and the passages about the differences between rich and poor (as in the rich don’t have to deal with bad luck) were so great. This was a great time.
What Home Is by Ashley Hope Pérez (1,5 stars)
This started out cute and very quickly made me very uncomfortable. Again, it’s kind of told in a lyrical style which is why I couldn’t get into it that much and in this case I am super glad. I could have used a bunch of trigger warnings for this one and would have just skipped it then…
CW: child abuse (sexual), suicide attempt
Island Rodeo Queen by Yamile Saied Méndez (3 Stars)
This was very cute. I don’t love stories with horses because I keep feeling sorry for them to have to perform like that but I did like the story about the main protagonist trying to fit in and just making her dream happen.
Grandpa by Randy Duburke (2,5 Stars)
I thought this was a great story. I wish the art would have been completed (I think there is one missing?) in this one.
Best in Show by Tirzah Price (1 Star)
Sorry, no, absolutely not. But Bacon? Nope. Eek. Nope nah. I cant. Listen, people can come for me for this but this reviewer is a very passionate vegan because freaking life. This story literally was about the cutest pig who was feeling hot and had character traits and I know that people off handedly kill animals but I do honestly not understand people who are capable of doing so. Living, breathing, feeling beings. “But Bacon”.
Not. Here for it. Whatsoever. This made me so angry and sad because I know that a lot of people think that way and – I am waiting for an incoming shitstorm – but I feel like this absolute inability to feel compassion for another being and murder other beings for food when these days we do not need meat to survive (or dairy) is where humanity’s issues start.

Praise the Lord and pass the little Debbies by David Maginnis Gill (3 Stars)
Well. This was certainly something. This hurt, this made me uncomfortable… I feel so sorry for Coby. I was angry at his parents and at the whole institution that is the church… reading stories like this I am really glad I’m not religious.
The Cabin by Nasugraq Rainey Hopson (n/a)
Skipped this because it said “Furtrapper” in the author’s note. I’ve read about enough animal cruelty up until now I am not going to do this to myself…
Black Nail Polish by Shae Carys (3,5 Stars)
Loved how the author dealt with chronic illness and pain. The rep was fantastic, especially the part where Mads feels the need to reinvent herself and to feel in control at least a little. The friend dynamic between her and Lauren being a bit weird in the aftermath of the diagnosis also feels very on point, though I was a bit taken aback by the idea that Mads felt like a bad friend. She could have used a friend to figure this all out with her and Lauran could have been there for her more imo.
Secret Menu by Veeda Bybee (2 Stars)
This was very cute though I felt it was incredibly basic as well (story wise, I am not here to judge the drawings as they are not finished in this ARC edition)
Pull up a Seat around the Stove by Joseph Bruchac (2 Stars)
I thought this was a quite nice look into themes of heritage. Sadly for some reason, I didn’t really connect to this story (maybe because of the poetry?)
Home Waits by Estelle Laure (3,5 Stars)
I thought this was nicely done and I liked this as a last story. The notion that you don’t have to “escape” your rural home town if you feel comfortable and good in it was lovely and I really enjoyed this. Especially the usage of the three ghosts that don’t go away and lead to a mental breakdown.
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,439 reviews35 followers
February 16, 2021
I was really excited about this book- because often people living in small towns or in the country are discriminated against and looked down upon ( I can speak on that from experience), and this anthology pushes back against those stereotypes. After the 2016 presidential election, rural America was blamed for the results and quick judgments were made about them, so this enjoyable collection of short stories shows there is more diversity than people are aware of. If you are from a small town you will really connect with this book, as small-town life has its own joys and struggles, but cannot be painted with a broad brush as sometimes the media is apt to do.

The Unhealthy Breakfast Club 4/5- Four teens who are very different, but all received scholarships to a better HS, forge unlikely friendships as they deal with passive discrimination from their classmates.

The Hole in Dark Kill Hallow 3.5/5- This story had a Pet Semetary vibe, in which two good friends need to decide if the gifts from a local dark magic location is worth paying the price.

A Border Kid Comes Of Age 3.5/5- Told in free verse, a Texan Mexican-American comes to terms with his sexuality, for his conservative family has rejected a gay uncle in the past.

Fish and Fences 3/5- Two Asian teens in Idaho finally clear up a misunderstanding in which they each thought the other hated them.

Close Enough 3/5- Two WV friends hash out the discrimination they have endured, as people living in the Appalachian region often have to deal with outsiders thinking they are hillbillies. The story was a bit on the preachy side.

Whiskey and Champagne 4.5/5- A poor Black family is accused of theft by the son of a rich family, just because he feels above them, and wants to shift the blame. One of my fav stories, but wished it was longer.

What Home Is 4/5- Another free verse narrative, from a girl's perspective who has endured trauma in her hometown, but also realizes they even when she leaves it for college, there might be some good to come home to.

Island Rodeo Queen 4/5- A Puerto Rican teen whose family has put down roots in Utah, competes to become a rodeo queen for a scholarship but has to endure discrimination as she competes against families that have lived in the area for generations. Who is to say that she doesn't deserve it as much as they do?

Grandpa 4/5- Told in graphic novel format, a teen from NYC visits his hometown in GA to visit his extended family. He begins to appreciate the countryside again and reconnects with his family and love of drawing.

Best In Show 4/5- A young woman who loves competing in the county fair with her FFA club, feels self-conscious when her long-time crush shows interest in her. Will she be brave enough to come out of the closet? A sweet story about first love.

Praise The Lord and Pass the Little Debbies 4.5/5- This story is depressing about a boy who tries to find solace in a church away from his dysfunctional family but is judged and treated harshly. No refuge is found, and he goes back to his home. The story is gritty and sad but mirrors the uncomfortable reality that some people don't have happy endings.

The Cabin 4/5- Set in Alaska, a teen keeps her wits when a mythical boogie visits the hunting cabin she is staying the night in. Despite it's short length, an evocative tale.

Black Nail Polish 4/5- Two best friends in a small town seem to be drifting apart when one makes the cheerleading team and the other gets a worrisome medical diagnosis. But they talk it out, which I loved, no stupid misunderstandings here!

Secret Menu 1/5- Another graphic novel story, this time set in a restaurant. Lame with juvenile art.

Pull Up a Seat Around The Stove 4.5/5- This story is the most autobiographical of all the stories and shares the story of the author who was part Abenaki and what his life was like growing up in rural New York in the 1950s.

Home Waits 2/5- A teen hates the boarding school she was sent to and wishes to be sent back to Taos, New Mexico. It had a weird angle of the young woman being haunted by women from her hometown in NM.
Profile Image for Renata.
2,564 reviews361 followers
April 26, 2021
As a former small-towner, I enjoyed this! It was a pretty quick, engaging read overall (some of my favs were "The (Unhealthy) Breakfast Club" by Monica Roe, "Fish and Fences" by Veeda Bybee, "Best in Show" by Tizah Price, and "Island Rodeo Queen" by Yamile Saied Mendez, while a few others didn't really click as much for me). I think it's always a little tough to get teens to pick up anthologies for leisure reading unless they have particular ties to the subject or are die-hard fans of specific authors included, so I think this might be a hard sell for a lot of kids in my particular area. It might be more popular in more, um, rural areas. Also good for classrooms looking for short stories.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.2k reviews277 followers
September 28, 2020
This was a 3.5 for me, and it was way past time for a collection of 16 short stories, essays, graphic tales, and poems devoted to teens living in the rural parts of this country. That said, and considering that I did enjoy each one of these heartfelt stories, there weren't many things that surprised me about this collection. Maybe because I grew up in the country, as we always said back in the day, and never felt as though that lifestyle was somehow inferior to those who lives in the city, the stories and experiences seemed quite similar to my own. I appreciated the diversity represented here as the authors hail from different places, not just geographically but experientially as well as from different socioeconomic classes and sexual orientations. There is pain present in some of the pages but also hope, love, and a sense of belonging and longing for home conjured in the foods and practices described here. Each reader will no doubt have his/her/their favorite among the stories, but mine were "Fish and Fences" by Veeda Bybee, "Whiskey and Champagne" by S.A. Crosby, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Little Debbies" by David Macinnis Gill, and "Grandpa" by Randy DuBurke. Still, there isn't a weak entry among this collection. How many assumptions about small-town life are challenged here? Well, in the end I suppose it matters where the reader is from and how many of those stereotypes about rural life that he/she/they buys into. There's something appealing about peaceful, quiet living, and sometimes it's circumstances that force us to leave our rural roots behind us. But as this collection reminds us, those roots are never far away, no matter how many miles we have traveled.
Profile Image for Yee.
560 reviews25 followers
January 22, 2021
Although the stories focus on rural areas, the characters in the stories have diversified backgrounds. Most of them have their fears of how others view them, but the ending usually is a good one when they stand for themselves to clarify the misperceptions against them. Besides fighting the stereotypes, they have to confront their assumptions about others and be proud of where they come from.

This book consists of short stories, poems, and even comics. I feel this book has served its purpose for the people who either grew up or lived in rural areas to share their experiences in various ways. I feel grateful that I was given the opportunity to read such a masterpiece, and most importantly, I got to know all the amazing places mentioned in this book. The stories are beautifully written, and I hope all the contributors will continue to produce such brilliant work.

Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with a free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America, Editor: Nora Shalaway Carpenter..
Profile Image for Erikka.
1,910 reviews
August 3, 2020
I had the luxury of growing up on the border of suburban and rural. We had county fairs and time told by crop rotation and country roads that can only be driven at insanely fast speeds. But I also was only 15 minutes from a town of 40,000 and had a high school class of 1500 kids. This book is both a taste of nostalgia and incredibly important in an era where we tend to paint rural living with large monochromatic brushstrokes. The diversity of experiences in these stories helps bring to light a very underconsidered stereotype and one that is incredibly harmful if we want to bridge gaps between our two political parties. In order to impact the often painfully archaic damage done by "old town values", it is paramount that we stop viewing those who believe these things as yokels and idiots. What will change views and acceptance over time is a willingness to have difficult discussions, not drive further rifts. I don't agree with a lot of conservative beliefs, especially in terms of human rights, but we can't make progress by denying them the respect of being treated as humans as well. This book humanizes rural living but also gives in roads for meaningful discourse.
Profile Image for Sarah Hanson.
239 reviews1 follower
June 5, 2020
This is a beautiful anthology of texts exploring the stereotypes surrounding rural communities and the vast backgrounds of individuals who call small towns, countrysides, and a variety of quiet spaces their home. As a girl who grew up in a small rural town, I find my voice heard through so many experiences shared here. Perhaps some of the most poignant collections are the poetry/prose woven throughout the book. There are strong-willed characters, overarching themes, and the need for beautiful words to be heard throughout these pieces. This would be an ideal acquisition for higher level 8-12 grade classrooms looking to incorporate narrative structures with a punch, or looking for stories influenced by author's experiences. Thank you for the ARC, Netgalley.
Profile Image for Sofía Vakis.
23 reviews1 follower
January 8, 2021
I loved this book! I got it for christmas and it was interesting because it (as the title clearly states) challenged my assumptions about people from rural parts of the US (and also in the South). Not only this, I also learnt a lot about what living in rural places is like and I learnt not to generalize anyone. I recommend this book to people especially that think of themselves as liberal, or leftist because there is certainly work to be done in terms of instantly assuming things when you hear "small town", or "rural" within liberal communities.
Profile Image for Betty Culley.
Author 4 books120 followers
January 21, 2022
I live in a town of 700 people in rural Maine, and raised my children here. I truly appreciate the concept and execution of this anthology. The diverse stories give you a view into the lives and experiences of 15 different rural teenagers all from all over the country. I loved the variety of the storytelling— graphic stories, essays, verse and short stories. A great book for both rural and city readers.
Profile Image for K.E. Radke.
Author 13 books109 followers
November 2, 2020
Get into the minds of people who grew up in the rural parts of America and never want to leave! Short stories about living life under a stigma and learning to stand up for everything you love about yourself.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
2,414 reviews27 followers
May 18, 2023
“The unhealthy breakfast club." In South Carolina, Gracie lives in a trailer and hopes to fix cars like her father, but right now, she has a scholarship to a private school that’s not very close to where she lives. She and three other scholarship kids from her area like to meet in the mornings at the local McDonald’s, which has the only reliable Internet, so they can do their work. At school, Gracie feels out of place amidst all the wealthy kids, especially when someone she had considered a friend had a Halloween party with the theme of Trailer Trash. I like this one a lot. It had great details, and I loved how the kids identified locations by whether or not they had Internet/cell service. I thought it was rather pointed but believable that the four scholarship kids represented a wide range of diversity that was not representative of their school.

“The hole of Dark Kill Hollow.” In the backwoods, where no tourist would ever find it, lies a sulfurous hole in the ground that grants wishes. Well, sort of. If you jump into it, it might give you what you wish for, but it will also take something away. When Jesse heads for the hole with his best friend Tyler, it’s because he can’t take the way his life is anymore. Will he really jump? This one took me a little while to figure out that it was supernatural. I think it shows clearly that Jessie‘s problems are not strictly rural. What he is trying to escape would fit just as well into an urban or suburban setting. I could have done without some of the crude details and language, but that is just personal taste.

“A border kid comes of age.” This story in verse ranges back and forth in time around a Texas border town, and the racism and other issues characters have faced historically and in the present. The main character’s voice is of a young man who has realized he is bisexual, and fears what that means for him in his town. I liked this one, though I thought some poems worked better than others in terms of cadence. I liked the ranging around in time, and the evocative descriptions that brought the town to life in just a few words.

“Fish and fences.” The main character is in a small town in Idaho, where her Laotian-American family is one of only two Asian families in the town. She is in marching band, and the Korean-American boy is a football player. This is a story of generous misunderstandings and realizing there is always more to someone’s story. I thought this one was really sweet, and I liked how the mother was able to accept gifts of fish she did not want, but was still able to love the generosity behind them.

“Close enough.” Alina has grown up in West Virginia, but was not born there. She often struggles with how she feels about that, since there are so many negative stereotypes of West Virginians, but there are also so many wonderful things about being a part of a many-generations West Virginian family that Alina does not have. She also loves the beautiful land where she grew up. What does it mean to be from somewhere? I loved this one because I am always interested in questions about identity and where it comes from, and I enjoyed reading about how Alina and her best friend Mori talked through some of those feelings.

“Whiskey and champagne.” Juke and his family are black, and are far from wealthy; his parents work long hours to keep them all fed. Juke plans to go to college, though. Then one day the wealthy black man that Juke’s father works for comes by with his son, and claims that his son saw Juke’s father steal a watch. This one was short but effective. Setting was nicely established, and the solution was fitting. I liked that race was not the issue here, and the use of Agatha-Christie inspired detecting skills.

“What Home is.” This powerful narrative is composed of paragraphs starting with “home is” and then adding details from mundane to nostalgic to horrifying. It is a compilation of a life in many glimpses. I thought this was amazingly well done, though after you read some of the horrifying bits, that colors everything else—which is likely the point. This is another rural voice that finds the only way to move forward is to move out of the small town and its rural life. I had thought this collection would be more about those who stay and make their life in that setting, so I do find myself a little surprised that a number of these stories depict a world the main character seeks to escape. But that is an honest view of their world, and their truth is just as valid as anyone else’s.

“Island rodeo queen.” Corali’s family is from Puerto Rico, but now live in Utah. Her big dream is to become a rodeo queen, but everyone seems to doubt that a Latina girl could win – and Corali already has so many doubts about herself, How can she possibly stand up to everyone, including herself? I liked this one for all the details and the horses, and I liked that this is a somewhat unusual topic that fits well into the rural mode. The micro-aggressions the main character has to deal with are completely believable and depressing.

“Grandpa.” A teenage boy, who is Black, goes from Brooklyn to spend some time with his grandmother in the deep South in the summer. He tries to remember what it was like to live there, and what he was like as a four-year-old, when he loved to draw and wanted to make books when he was older. When did he lose that spark, and could he get it back? This was a graphic novel format, and I wish I could have seen it in larger format than I could on my e-book. I liked the story, which was simple but carried a lot of weight. Are we now the same person we were when we were younger? What does it mean to have someone who believed in us absolutely, especially if that person is now gone?

“Best in show.” The main character is a 16-year-old girl who lives on a farm and raises pigs for the county fair. She finds pigs easier to deal with than people, especially since she is queer, and feels that she is already weird enough without adding one more layer. But then the girl of her dreams asks her out, and she has to figure out what means more to her – the girl, or being marginally less weird. She makes the right choice. This one was sweet, and I loved all the 4-H details. I was always a city kid looking enviously at the farm kids at the state fair, so it’s nice to have a story from their point of view. And nice to see a depiction of a small town that is not completely bigoted.

“Praise the Lord and pass the Little Debbies.” In a small town near the Tennessee border, Coby takes a bus each Sunday to a church where he is always getting in trouble for asking uncomfortable questions. He only goes to church to get away from his perpetually fighting parents, and the memory of his recently deceased little sister who had severe brain issues. But sometimes, it is a tossup which is worse. This one was sad. This kid is really caught in a no-win situation.

“The cabin.” A teenage girl near the Arctic Circle is trapping out in the wilderness, and that night in her cabin, she hears something trying to get in. This was a scary story, and quite different from the others in that interprets rural as wilderness. It is interesting to see how the Inuit view strange happenings, which are apparently common, but not a good one to read just before bed!

“Black nail polish.” In the small town of Marie, Indiana, Madison and Lauren have always been best friends. But on the day they were supposed to try out to be cheerleaders, only Lauren could go, because Madison was finding out she has a serious progressive condition. Will it be possible for them to stay friends? I liked this one; friend issues are friend issues no matter where you live. This one had lots of good details, and an unusual medical condition at its center.

“Secret menu.” This is a graphic novel format story, in which the girl works at her parents’ Thai restaurant. A friend comes with his grandmother regularly, and one day the grandmother decides she wants to try the real Thai dishes, hot peppers and all. This one was short and cute.

“Pull up a seat around the stove.” Joseph Bruchac writes up several loving vignettes of growing up in rural New York with his grandparents. He also includes poems that reflect on that life and those people. I thought this was lovely; so full of intimate details, like the old-fashioned washing machine and how he felt about it as a child. This is my favorite of the whole collection.

“Home waits.” Sunny grew up in Taos and loves it down to her bones, but her grandfather insists she go to boarding school and make something of her life. But at boarding school New England, she is plagued by ghosts of famous women from Taos, and she knows where she really belongs. Although the ghost aspect of this was a little odd, I did like the emphasis on choosing one’s own life, and already knowing where you belong, even if someone else feels it is not good enough for you. In a way it made me think about Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls, and when Lorelai's new husband wanted her to move away. While I think it is natural to want to build a life with someone in a new place, that does not take into account what you would give up if you were part of a tightly knit, unique, loving community. I have always been irritated that people seem to feel that loving urban areas is more sophisticated and mature; as if maybe you could grow up in the country, but then the only mature thing to do is move to the city. I don’t buy that at all, and it’s nice that I’m not the only one.
Profile Image for Clara.
1,206 reviews93 followers
May 20, 2023
Most of these stories are good, but unfortunately, the only two that really stuck out to me did so in a bad way, which brings my average rating down to a 3.3.

CW (varies across stories): classism, child sexual assault, family member deaths, animal deaths, racism, homophobia
Profile Image for Macy Davis.
1,099 reviews2 followers
March 13, 2021
I'm really glad this is a short story collection that exists. This would have been something I loved in high school. Now there just need to be more novels that offer nuanced portrayals of young adulthood in rural areas.
Profile Image for Allie Lawrence.
212 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2023
Some of these stories were so powerful they made me sob, and other ones I just… didn’t get. I really loved the first story though. It made me think about how damaging stereotypes and preconceived notions can be.
Profile Image for Kelly Parker.
951 reviews15 followers
July 12, 2020
This collection of Small-Town America short stories hit the mark in terms of confronting many of the prejudices/expectations that are widely held about rural communities. I am guilty of many of these assumptions and was glad for the chance to have them called out.
Like almost all of the collections I’ve read, there were great stories, pretty good ones and some I found meh. What sets this book apart, though, is that all of the stories are written by different authors with unique small-town stories to tell, and I loved that each new story was a chance to learn about an unfamiliar place.
A few stories stood out - The (Unhealthy) Breakfast Club, Black Nail Polish, and in particular, Praise the Lord and Pass the Little Debbies. I would love to read a whole novel about Coby. #davidmacinnisgill
Thanks to #netgalley and #candlewickpress for this ARC of #RuralVoicesYAAnthology
83 reviews
July 31, 2023
3.5 stars

This was such a cool idea for a book and I really liked it!! I feel like there were parts of this I could definitely relate to while other parts opened my eyes to what lay beyond the stereotypes of the word "rural."

I think the one problem I had with this book was that it didn't feel as cohesive as it could have been. For example, I lost interest in some stories because I didn't feel like they were equally compelling as others (although that's probably just personal taste), or I just felt like some of the writing was jarring because the styles were really different. I'm just not sure about the organization of the book, if that makes sense, but it was still an enjoyable read and a cool collection of stories!!

anyways, here are the entries that I just absolutely loved: The Hole of Dark Kill Hollow, Grandpa, and Praise the Lord and Pass the Little Debbies). Those ones just hit different, idk man (if any of u guys end up reading this book, lemme know what u thought of those ones)

also can u tell I'm scrambling to finish the library books I check out before they're all due AHAHAHAAHA
Profile Image for Michelle.
498 reviews30 followers
July 14, 2020
What a satisfying book! This anthology has a selection of 15 short stories told in a variety of formats, including graphic novel and verse, that details the rural experience. And many are from marginalized voices.

The intro mentions that stereotyping rural people is almost an acceptable prejudice. Jokes about the backwoods are everywhere in more urban settings and even the first story (The Unhealthy Breakfast Club) takes note how people know it’s unacceptable to make racist/sexist jokes, but the poor? It’s ok. And it’s true that most literature centers on the city, or at least suburbia, so this point of view was refreshing. I loved the voice in each story and I’d recommend this to all. “Home Is” was particularly powerful.

Thank you to LibraryThing and Candlewick press for this ARC to review.
Profile Image for Grace Wright.
53 reviews
July 6, 2020
This book was very good! Rural Voices had a variety of different stories, and each was way different than the last. I really enjoyed all the different types of writing from each author. I also enjoyed how there was pictures in some of the stores. I enjoyed how most of the stories had the main character, and sometimes others, growing and accepting different things about themselves. Some of the stories were a little more boring than others, but that is probably just a personal preference. This book was a very interesting way to showcase different stereotypes and how they affect people’s lives. This book was a fairly quick read and it was very enjoyable.
Profile Image for John Clark.
2,343 reviews35 followers
July 26, 2020
While I wish there was a story from Maine in this anthology, I have high praise for those that are included. They are varied, many are LBTGQ affirming, and at least one should spark a sense of commonality or recognition with anyone who grew up or is growing up in rural America. My favorite is Joseph Bruchac's 'Pull Up A Seat Around the Stove.' It's not only a love story about an earlier era, but a message to younger people that their parents and grandparents can be treasures of reminiscence that won't be there forever, so enjoy and learn now. I hope this is successful enough to spawn another similar anthology.
May 1, 2022
Lessons learned and memories revisted for most

This book will allow you to glimpse into 15 communities. You might recognize and relate. You will experience multiple feelings to include happy, sad and very personal.
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