Fishing For Chickens: Stories About Rural Youth
Editor. Short stories.
2001, Persea Books
As editor for this collection, I looked at thousands of stories about growing up rural in the United States. Although I did not find every “type” of story that I hoped was out there, I believe, working with the people at Persea, we have achieved a representative sampling of short fiction that can be read by adults down to middle-school kids.
I do worry, now that the book is completed and in the world, that few stories about the rural experience are being written today. Where, for example, is the story, in fiction, that shows the great transition from the traditional farm to agri-business? Essays may be filling the gap, but where is the fiction? I hope all young rural writers and their teachers see the urgency.
In this unique collection, sixteen writers, both established and new, take us to the backwoods, farmlands, mountains, and coastal regions of the U.S.-and into the lives of young people who are growing up there. Neither sentimental nor nostalgic, their richly plotted and poignant stories dispel the myth of the country idyll to reveal the tough realities of a rural childhood, as well as its rewards.
In Rebecca Rule’s “Walking the Trapline,” a routine trek with her father and brother into frigid New England woods becomes a test of survival for a young girl. “Sugar Among the Chickens” by Lewis Nordan, a comic tale, features a bored farm boy in Mississippi intent on catching a big rooster with a baited fishing line. When a flock of geese escapes the hunters’ guns in North Carloinian writer Tony Earley’s “Aliceville,” a boy’s disappointment is replaced by wonder as he realizes that their breathtaking passage overhead “made our world less small.”
In addition to Rule, Nordan, and Earley, the authors included are Pinckney Benedict, Nancy Brown, Nora Dauenhauer, Eric Gansworth, Jim Heynen, Tomás Rivera, Wallace Stegner, Kathleen Tyau, Alma Villanueva, Jon Volkmer, Alice Walker, Vicky Wicks, and Hisaey Yamamoto.
Whether rural native of lifelong urban dweller, every reader will come away from this collection with a deeper appreciation of the influence of place upon individual growth and of the special qualities of a country upbringing.
Best known for his short-short stories about “the boys,” Jim Heynen has published widely as a writer of poems, novels, nonfiction, and short fiction.