William Prochnau, in his cover story for The Post magazine {Aug. 2}, wrote anecdotally of economic hardships in rural America -- a genre that will no doubt be repeated time and time again during the '88 elections as presidential candidates pay homage to the "common folk" of America, note the plight of the farmers and cite long-ignored "down-home" wisdom.

While rural America has, for the most part, suffered during this country's post-1979 economic recovery, Mr. Prochnau's storytelling reveals a strong tendency to idealize rural people and rural values, a characteristic that is remarkably prominent in journalistic descriptions of rural America. Although earthy quotes from Fannie Ellen, Cowboy Jack and the local sheriff can add refreshing color to a journalist's story, little mention is made of the darker side of rural American culture: deep racism, sexism, homophobia and intolerance for those outside the tightly closed and inbred communities.

Having grown up in Pine Apple, Ala. (population around 350), I became part of this country's urbanization movement. Why did I leave? It was not for lack of economic opportunity (although that's a legitimate reason), but to escape the suffocating attitudes of the local culture and to avoid the traditional path laid out for southern white women.

Yes, I still enjoy quoting the wisdom of my late grandmother, who died at age 92 never having left Pine Apple, and I'm not above using "ain't" in my vocabulary or asking my mother for her cornbread recipe. Yet, despite the legend of small-town honesty, hospitality and homeliness, rural America presents a double-edged sword for many Americans. A local restaurant that opened in Pine Apple several years ago recently failed not because the locals were too poor to eat out, but because it was owned and run by two gay men, branded by the townspeople as "queers."

I can only guess that Mr. Prochnau must have grown up in the big city to have such nostalgic views of rural America. HOLLY STALLWORTH Silver Spring