Aug 11, 2021
The 2021-22 all-campus read at St. Bonaventure University features an array of short stories, poetry, graphic short stories and personal essays, diving deep into the complexity and diversity of rural America and the people who call it home.
Fifteen authors challenge assumptions about small-town America in “Rural Voices,” edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter. The authors are diverse in ethnic and cultural background, geographic location, physical ability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. The collection features powerful new voices alongside award-winning, established authors.
“Rural Voices” will be distributed to the university’s first-year students at Welcome Days and it will be the core text for SBU 101, a freshman seminar course.
Chris Brown, executive director of Student Success and the university’s Higher Education Opportunity Program, said his favorite chapter in the book is a poem called “What Home Is.”
“It made me think about the sights, sounds, tastes and smells that I remember about places I’ve called my home. I look forward to continuing discussions with new students about what makes a community feel like a home,” Brown said.
In the book’s introduction, Carpenter writes, “Being rural is deeply embedded in many people’s identities, but it is definitely not a punch line.”
The collection features stories set in a dozen states, from upstate New York to northern Alaska, where the teenage protagonists cope with universal themes of belonging, family struggles, social injustice and grief.
Readers will meet a 15-year-old boy who travels from his home in Brooklyn to his grandmother’s house in Georgia in the graphic story “Grandpa” by professional illustrator Randy DuBurke. DuBurke, who has created artwork for DC Comics, Marvel Comics and the New York Times, says the “deep southern woods helped and still nurture my love for art and writing to this day.” In “Island Rodeo Queen” by author Yamile Saied Mendez, a Puerto Rican teen in Utah discovers that being a rodeo queen means embracing her heritage, not shedding it.
“This book challenges the stereotype of rural people,” said Ryan Signorino, ’19, ’21, a graduate student with the Student Success Center. “The variety of viewpoints opens a lot of discussion points for the SBU 101 course.”
“Rural Voices” was an NPR Best Book of 2020. Carpenter earned her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an advocate for normalizing mental health and deconstructing harmful stereotypes, especially of rural people and places.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. In 2020, St. Bonaventure was named the #2 regional university value in New York and #3 in the North by U.S. News and World Report.