Thursday, February 18, 2010

A farm-to-law school tale

I've just finished an essay called "How You Gonna' Keep Her Down on the Farm ..." for a collection of essays about the authors' One-L years. For the uninitiated, I should explain that "One L" refers to the first year of law school. This collection, called "One L Revisited," is being published by the University of Missouri, Kansas City Law Review to commemorate the publication of Scott Turow's best seller, One L some three decades ago.

In his book, Turow documents in great detail his experiences as a first-year law student at Harvard. I acknowledge, in contrast, that I don't remember a great deal of detail about my first year of law school, though I do recall some vignettes and characters quite vividly. The piece may be of interest to those who study the rural because in it I ponder the influence of my rural upbringing on my sense of self and my approach to the law school under-taking. I also discuss my working-class background.

Pasted below is a paragraph from the essay in which I ponder my identity as "rural":

I may nevertheless have self-identified as rural. I’d had sufficient experiences in cities to have observed first hand aspects of the rural-urban binary, but I’d had few enough such encounters that cities still intrigued and intimidated me. If I acknowledged my rural home in the largely Arkansas context of the law school, it was probably as specifically hailing from Newton County. Both my mother’s and father’s families had lived there since shortly after the Civil War and, like many rural southerners, a significant component of my identity was (and is) grounded in place, based largely on the depth and breadth of my family’s roots. And certainly Newton County is a rural place. It is the most rural county in Arkansas by several so-called ecological measures, e.g., population size and density. But it is also culturally rural—the stuff of hillbilly lore even within Arkansas, which outsiders might see as an essentially or entirely hillbilly state.

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