Vance Randolph and Otto Ernest Rayburn in Rayburn’s Book Store, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, 1948. (University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections)
The University of Arkansas Press announces the forthcoming publication of Ozark Country, by Otto Ernest Rayburn, edited by Brooks Blevins.
Published just days before America’s entry into World War II, Ozark Country is Otto Ernest Rayburn’s love letter to his adopted region. One of several chronicles of the Ozarks that garnered national attention during the Depression and war years, when many Americans craved stories about people and places seemingly untouched by the difficulties of the times, Rayburn’s colorful tour takes readers from the fictional village of Woodville into the backcountry of a region teeming with storytellers, ballad singers, superstitions, and home remedies.
Rayburn’s tales—fantastical, fun, and unapologetically romantic—portray a world that had already all but disappeared at the time they were written. Yet their idealization of the Ozarks resonates with notions of the region that persisted in the American consciousness. Ozark Country gives a modern audience a fascinating glimpse into Depression-era American ideas about the Ozarks.
Ozark Country is being published as part of the Press’s Chronicles of the Ozarks series, which makes available reprints of some of the Depression era’s Ozark books with introductions and editorial notes that place each book and its author against the backdrop of the era and its popular assumptions and myths of life in the Ozarks.
Publication of Ozark Country is scheduled for April 2021.
Born in Iowa and raised in Kansas, Otto Ernest Rayburn (1891–1960) was a teacher, writer, and magazine editor who devoted most of his life to the folklore and folkways of the Ozarks.
Brooks Blevins, the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University, is a native of the Arkansas Ozarks and the author or editor of ten books, including Arkansas/Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State.