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2018
Volume 58, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0034-527X
  • E-ISSN: 1943-2348

Abstract

Children’s literature contains shared meanings that not only reflect societal norms, but also reinstate and reconstitute societal norms. This study used critical content analysis methods grounded in place theory to analyze the textual constructions of rurality in 52 contemporary, middle grade, realistic fiction novels set in US rural places. Findings revealed five salient themes, three of which are discussed in this article: systems work to keep rural people in poverty; rural people have deep connections to place; and rural people have diverse, intersectional identities. While some middle grade books in the sample move toward challenging stereotypes of rural places as monolithic (e.g., White-majority, socially conservative) by including nuanced portrayals of some characters of color, LGBTQ+ characters, and characters with disabilities, others rely on simplistic and otherwise problematic representations, using familiar tropes about rural people that suggest racial and cultural homogeneity privileging Whiteness and making invisible BIPOC in rural communities. Given the powerful impact of stories on identity formation and sensemaking, this study analyzes textual representations of rural people and places in books for middle grade readers.

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2024-05-01
2024-07-25
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