There is a saying: “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”
Out of print for decades, and long-since discarded from all but research university libraries, wonderful works of rural based literature are disappearing every day. Variously called “farm novels,” “regional novels,” or “local color fiction,” these works portray farm life, and just as importantly, American life, perceptively and in great depth. Written before the age of digitization, these works are being lost before they can be saved. To lose them is to lose a piece of our collective history; a piece of who we are, as a people and as a nation.
The Rural Lit RALLY Initiative, from its inception as a tangible effort in April 2011, has worked hard to renew interest in this important part of our nation’s memory.
We have established the Rural Lit Library, which currently holds over 100 volumes of these rare manuscripts. We have established collaborative efforts with similar organizations, such as the Ruth Suckow Memorial Association, Bess Streeter Aldrich Foundation, Mari Sandoz Heritage Society, Norwegian American Historical Association, and the Danish American Archive and Library. We have partnered with the Redmond Historical Society, Redmond Library, and Buena Vista University to hold exhibits dedicated to spreading the word about our homegrown rural authors and their works.
We have teamed up with those who are also reading and writing about this almost-lost literature, such as Nancy Gluck and James Rosenzweig, as well as those currently working and writing in related genres, such as Page Lambert and Linda M. Hasselstrom.
We have been able to get young adults reading and writing about rural literature through a grant funded program; we currently have three reading groups in place, with an average of 19 students reading one rural novel in each of the two academic semesters. We are always looking for new reading groups – if you are a teacher (or know of one) who might be interested in supervising a student reading group, please contact us for more information.
We are honored to be partnering with Susan Taylor Chehak and Foreverland Press in our newest venture – re-publishing some of the out of print farm novels in e-format, making them easily accessible to all while also preserving them for future generations.
We are pleased with the results of our efforts to date, but realize that much more work needs to be done!
We ask YOUR help, as someone with an interest in preserving Americana in the written word. Whether you are a reader, a writer, or an educator, please share with us any ideas that you may have for restoring these works to our collective memory and use.