Here at the Daily Yonder (and our publisher, the Center for Rural Strategies) we aim to address rural life and issues in all their fullness and complexity. Sometimes mainstream journalism misses the mark a bit in this regard. Other times, false narratives are perpetuated in the general cultural consciousness.

The latter has often been the case when it comes to “rural queer life”, which was believed to be nonexistent by many of the people studying, recording, and even living queer lives in past decades.

In a celebration of LGBTQ voices in and from rural communities, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite things to read, watch and listen to, during Pride month and beyond.

Geography of the Heart by Fenton Johnson

Image Credit: Scribner

Fenton Johnson is a rural Kentuckian and a dear friend. In his part of the state, his dad could make whiskey legally. When Rural Strategies was trying to get CBS to pull the plug on their proposed reality series, The Real Beverly Hillbillies, Fenton wrote a game changing essay printed across the full Sunday L.A. Times Opinion Page that looked at media stereotypes and harm.

Of course, Fenton is a very fine novelist and essayist, still I would say read Geography of the Heart. It is a loving account of his life with his partner Larry Rose who died of AIDS. Larry was a great guy, a high school English teacher, and the child of European Holocaust survivors; and Geography of the Heart is an abiding look at love, fear, what we learn from loss, and what we hold on to for courage.

-Dee Davis, publisher of the Daily Yonder and President of the Center for Rural Strategies

Fun Home: A Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel 

Image Credit: HMH Books

The Broadway musical adaptation of Fun Home was one of the soundtracks of my high school years in rural Minnesota. This year, as I once again found myself in my 900-person hometown, I decided to read the original book for the first time. Somehow, it was exactly what I needed. In Fun Home: A Tragicomic—an artful mix of memoir and graphic novel—Alison Bechdel delves into her upbringing in the same rural Pennsylvania town her father was born. Closely exploring her complex family relationships, Bechdel weaves together the story of her own blooming sexuality with reflections on her father’s life as a closeted queer man. A heartfelt ode to family, loss, and longing, Fun Home continues to inspire me to reflect deeply on my own home(s) and the queer child that will always dwell within me.

-Dani Peréz, reporting fellow for the Daily Yonder

S-Town, podcast

Image Credit: Serial/This American Life via Wikimedia, artwork by Valero Doval

If you listened to S-Town when it came out in 2017, as I did, it might be time to revisit the Serial/This American Life production. S-Town is the story of John B. McLemore, troubled resident of Woodstock, Alabama, genius clock mechanic, and prolific climate change doomsayer. Throughout its seven episodes, the show morphs from true-crime to memorial and back again. But in some of its most touching moments, it’s about the intimacy, secrecy, and repression experienced by one bisexual, small-town Alabama man born in 1966. Upon second listen, the scene that made me cry the hardest describes how close John B. once came to “F-150 pickup truck love, denim hugging on your thighs love, azalea love, doctor’s parking lot love, kissing on your belly and all around your red hair love.”

-Olivia Weeks, reporting fellow for the Daily Yonder

Schitt’s Creek, TV series

Image Credit: ITV Studios

Schitt’s Creek, the popular and critically acclaimed Canadian TV show, is a fish-out-of-water comedy centered on a small, provincial town. Dan Levy, one of the show’s creators, plays the pansexual David Rose, whose love story with character Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid) is a touching focal point of the show’s later seasons. “Schitt’s Creek” is filled with people who are sarcastic, self-indulgent, condescending, and bemused. But there is not a trace of homophobia, giving Levy the chance to create a hilarious and complete character in a very small-town setting.

-Tim Marema, editor of the Daily Yonder.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

Image Credit: Penguin Books Ltd

Here’s a personal hot take for you: If you’re going to invest your time in reading plays, read (gay American playwright) Tennessee Williams.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a drama that takes places in the Mississippi’s Delta, starring a family slowly disintegrating under the specter of Big Daddy Pollitt, the Patriarch and biggest cotton plantation owner in the South. He casts a shadow that doesn’t bring any reprieve from the heat, but as the oppressive mugginess steals your last breath and the sweat beads start rolling down your forehead, you quickly realize it’s the weight of lies and not the climate of the South that’s suffocating you, and the family.

-Jan Pytalski, associate editor of the Daily Yonder

‘The Only One For Me, Jolene’ from Dolly Parton’s America podcast

Image Credit: WNYC Studios

One episode in particular of Radiolab’s podcast Dolly Parton’s America lingers on the mind: “The Only One For Me, Jolene.” In it, the hosts bring on Professor Nadine Hubbs, country music expert, musician, and lifelong Dolly fan. Hubbs describes the format of the “other woman song,” of which Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” and Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” are prime examples, and ultimately makes the case that Jolene is subverting the format: “it’s really a homoerotic love story dressed up as an other woman cheating song.” Dolly, accepting as she is of her listeners’ interpretations of her work, tells a different story of Jolene’s inception. But the song sure is better if you sing the extra verse Hubbs wrote for it at the end. 

“I’m glad I had that talk with you. Glad we met in person too. That place you took me to was quite a scene. It’s true that my man found you first. You awakened such a thirst. Now you’re the only one for me, Jolene.”

-Olivia Weeks, reporting fellow for the Daily Yonder

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Image Credit: Random House Publishing Group

Fried Green Tomatoes is a book by Fannie Flagg published in 1987 and adapted into a screenplay in 1991. The story centers around the relationship of two women in rural Alabama during the 1920s. It was bold for its time. In the mid-80s there weren’t other books depicting a lesbian love story written by a woman who was herself a lesbian from the rural south. The book was on the best sellers list for 36 weeks, and the movie was nominated for two Oscars.

“It’s funny, most people can be around someone, and they gradually begin to love them and never know exactly when it happened; but Ruth knew the very second it happened to her. When Idgie had grinned at her and tried to hand her that jar of honey, all these feelings that she had been trying to hold back came flooding through her, and it was at that second in time that she knew she loved Idgie with all her heart.” ―Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Teresa Collins, operations coordinator for the Daily Yonder and the Center for Rural Strategies

Pride, film

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Gays & Lesbians Support the Miners (GLSM) was a real-life alliance between mostly urban queer activists and rural miners in South Wales that began during the year-long strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in 1984-1985. Queer activists in London realized that the striking miners were experiencing many of the same tactics and aggressions from common foes like the Thatcher administration, conservative press, and the police, which led them to form a solidarity movement and ultimately create a lasting alliance with union chapters in the rural Swansea Valley and other hamlets across South Wales. The story of this unlikely friendship and political and cultural alliance was dramatized in a truly stunning 2014 film called “Pride.” You can stream it (with a box of tissues) on Amazon Prime. A particularly poignant scene occurs half-way through the movie in the miners hall in Onllwyn, when the women of the community stand together to sing the old millworkers anthem “Bread and Roses.”  Head over to YouTube to watch that clip

-Whitney Kimball Coe, coordinator of the Rural Assembly

Bermuda Triangle, band

Image Credit: Bermuda Triangle

If you’re a fan of contemporary folk or Americana, there’s a chance you might enjoy listening to Bermuda Triangle—a fairly new trio consisting of Brittany Howard, her wife Jesse Lafser, and Becca Mancari. With mesmerizing harmonies and stunning lyrics, Bermuda Triangle’s songs are a beautiful backdrop to a rural, windows-down, starry-sky, queer love. Although the group only has three recorded songs at the moment, their music is the perfect gateway to Howard’s life-giving work with The Alabama Shakes, Lafser’s rural-facing album Raised on the Plains, and Mancari’s dazzling solo performances. 

-Dani Peréz, reporting fellow for the Daily Yonder

Brokeback Mountain, film

Image Credit: Focus Features via Wikimedia, poster design by BLT Communications, LLC

Brokeback Mountain is a heart wrenching and enthralling film about two male ranchers who become romantically involved while isolated in the beautiful mountains of Wyoming. This movie—set against a stunning rural backdrop—is an excellent example of the way love presents itself across a spectrum in various relationships and that we need to broaden our understanding of how humans can express love to each other.

-Adilia Watson, reporting fellow for the Daily Yonder

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