Kentucky-based author Silas House reads, explains newest book, “Southernmost”
SHEPHERDSTOWN – Explaining important aspects of his plot and characters, Silas House took time to read a few important paragraphs — based loosley upon recent historical events — from his book, “Southernmost.”
House, a Kentucky-based author was brought in by The National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for Teachers, to speak to students and the community about his most recently published book at the Robert C. Byrd Center on July 12.
“The book starts on the same day marriage equality was passed in the United States. On the same day, a flood hits a town in Tennessee, but it was still recovering from a real flood that happened in 2010,” House said, mentioning he chose to write about this area in Tennessee because one of his friends living in the area lost her home to the May 1- 2, 2010 flood.
“The flood does two important things to change the life of a Pentecostal preacher, whose life was devoted to preaching,” House said about the book’s main character, Asher Sharp.
According to House, Sharp’s brother came out to him 10 years before the flood occurred, and, because of Asher’s religious beliefs, he chose to cut off ties with his brother. When the flood hits, a gay couple loses their home, and comes to Asher’s home to seek refuge. Asher’s wife refuses the couple’s request, citing her concern it will influence her and Asher’s young son, Justin.
Asher suddenly realizes he doesn’t agree with his wife and his previously-held beliefs, and voices his disagreement. This leads to him announcing his change in beliefs to his church and losing his position as its pastor. He and his wife divorce, and his wife is granted custody of their son. Asher decides he doesn’t want his son living with his ex-wife, so he kidnaps Justin and runs away with him on a road trip to Key West, Florida.
House said he personally went on the same road trip Asher traveled, so the experience — the landmarks and billboards — would be accurately portrayed.
Although he grew up in and still lives in the South and based parts of the book on his personal experience as a member of the LGBTQ community in the South, House said he didn’t want readers to think the negative experiences he writes about only exist in the South.
“I don’t think just the South is racist, just the South is homophobic, just the South is xenophobic,” House said.
House then explained how growing up in Appalachia helped him develop his storytelling skills from an early age.
“Based on my friends and other people I know, I do believe it is more of a norm in Appalachia to tell stories,” House said. “When I was growing up, it was very common we were on the front porch, and my mother or uncle would be telling a story.
“The only way I know how to deliver a message is to put it in a human story. I just think there’s nothing that humanizes us, as much as stories — there’s something in our DNA that craves mystery, to see something that surprises you. Everywhere I go, where stories are told, people are happier,” House said.