Silas House

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Silas House
House at the 2022 Texas Book Festival.
House at the 2022 Texas Book Festival.
BornSilas Dwane House
(1971-08-07) August 7, 1971 (age 51)[1]
Lily, Laurel County, Kentucky
GenreSouthern literature
SpouseJason Kyle Howard[2]

Silas Dwane House[3] (born August 7, 1971) is an American writer best known for his novels. He is also a music journalist, environmental activist, and columnist. House's fiction is known for its attention to the natural world, working-class characters, and the plight of the rural place and rural people. House is known as a representative for LGBTQ Appalachians and Southerners and is certainly among the most visible LGBTQ people associated with rural America.

Early life and education[edit]

House was born in Corbin, Kentucky, and grew up in nearby rural Lily, Laurel County, Kentucky, but he also spent much of his childhood in nearby Leslie County, Kentucky, which he has cited as the basis for the fictional Crow County, which serves as the setting for his first three novels. He has degrees from Eastern Kentucky University (BA in English with emphasis on American literature), and from Spalding University (Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing).[4] In 2000, House was chosen, along with since-published authors Pamela Duncan, Jeanne Braselton, and Jack Riggs, as one of the ten emerging talents in the south by the Millennial Gathering of Writers at Vanderbilt University. At the time he was a rural mail carrier. He sold his first novel shortly thereafter.


House's first novel, Clay's Quilt, was published in 2001. It appeared briefly on the New York Times Best Seller list and became a word-of-mouth success throughout the Southern United States. It was a finalist for both the Southeast Booksellers' Association fiction award and the Appalachian Writers' Association Book of the Year Award.[4]

He published his novel A Parchment of Leaves in 2003, which became a national bestseller and was nominated for several major awards. The book was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics' Circle Prize and won the Award for Special Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Chaffin Award for Literature, the Kentucky Novel of the Year Award, and others.

House's next book, The Coal Tattoo (2004), was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics' Circle Prize as well as won the Appalachian Writers' Association Book of the Year Award, the Kentucky Novel of the Year Award, and others. House's work has been championed by such acclaimed writers as Lee Smith, Brad Watson, and Larry Brown, all of whom were mentors for House. Barbara Kingsolver has said in print that House is one of her "favorite writers and favorite human beings" and environmental writer and activist Wendell Berry has expressed his appreciation of House many times, including during an interview with the New York Times

House published Something's Rising with creative nonfiction writer Jason Kyle Howard in March 2009. The book is a series of profiles of various anti-mountaintop removal activists from the region, including musicians Jean Ritchie and Kathy Mattea, author Denise Giardina, and activist Judy Bonds. The book was called "revelatory" by esteemed author and oral historian Studs Terkel, in his last blurb. Writers Lee Smith and Hal Crowther co-authored the introduction.

House's fourth novel, Eli the Good, was published in September 2009 to great acclaim. The book emerged as a number one bestseller on the Southern lists and received the first annual Storylines Prize from the New York Public Library system, an award given to a book for use in the ESL and literacy programs of New York City, as well as an E.B. White Award given by the American Booksellers Association.

His short story Recruiters, which has appeared in Anthology of Appalachian Writing, Vol. 2 now has a new Larkspur Press edition from Kentucky's Artisan Printer. This special edition is illustrated by Arwen Donahue and includes the original song Brennen's Ballad by Sue Massek, which was the inspiration for the story.[5]

House's first book written for elementary aged children, Same Sun Here, was published in February 2012 and co-written with Neela Vaswani. The book was the winner of the Parents Choice Award and was the #1 Most Recommended Book by Independent Booksellers in the entire nation during the Spring of 2012. House and Vaswani recorded the highly successful audiobook version of the novel, which won an Earphones Award, and the Audie Award for Best Narration, the highest honor given to audiobooks. The novel won over a dozen awards, including the Nautilus Award and a South Asian Book Association Honor Book.

House's sixth novel, Southernmost was published in June 2018 and was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The book was a SIBA bestseller and received wide acclaim, especially among other writers, such as Dorothy Allison, Jennifer Haigh, Lee Smith, Garth Greenwell, and many others. It won the 2019 Judy Gaines Young Book Award, given by Transylvania University annually to recognize an excellent book from the Appalachian region. The book won the Weatherford Award for Fiction, was long-listed for the 2019 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and short-listed for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction. House compiled a music playlist on the literature and music blog Largehearted Boy to accompany Southernmost. The playlist includes music by Brandi Carlile, Celia Cruz, Patsy Cline, and others.

House's seventh novel, Lark Ascending, was released in the fall of 2022 and was an immediate indie bestseller and a finalist for the Southern Book Prize. The book received praise from authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Billy O'Callaghan, Wiley Cash, Margaret Renkl, Michelle Gallen, and others. The novel is considered a departure for House as it is set twenty years in the future, mostly in Ireland. House has said the book is his mediation on grief, the demise of democracy, and the climate crisis.[6]

House's writing has appeared several times in The New York Times (including his hugely popular essay "The Art of Being Still") and The Atlantic. Recently his work has also appeared in Time, The Washington Post, The Bitter Southerner, and other publications. In 2022 one of his essays was chosen as notable by editor Alexander Chee for the book Best American Essays 2022. House's work has been anthologized in such books as New Stories From the South: The Year's Best, 2004, and Best Food Writing: 2014. He has also written the introductions to Missing Mountains, a study of mountaintop removal; From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow, a biography of Earl Hamner, Jr., and Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Moses, a new edition by HarperCollins. House's essays and short stories have been featured on NPR's All Things Considered several times during his time there as a commentator.

House is also a playwright. In 2005, House wrote the play The Hurting Part, which was produced by the University of Kentucky. In 2009 his second play, Long Time Travelling, was produced by the Actor's Guild of Lexington (Kentucky). In 2012, Berea College Laboratory Theatre presented his controversial play, This Is My Heart For You, about a small town divided by a gay rights discrimination case and hate crime. The latter two plays were both subsequently staged at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival.

Academic career[edit]

House served as a writer in residence at Eastern Kentucky University 2004-2005 and at Lincoln Memorial University 2005–2010. At LMU he also created and directed the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival and the Appalachian Reading Series. In 2010 House became the NEH Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where he teaches Appalachian Literature and a writing workshop. He served for one year, 2011–2012, as interim director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center. He has served on the fiction faculty at Spalding University's MFA in Creative Writing since 2005.

In 2010 House was selected as the focus of the Silas House Literary Festival at Emory and Henry College in Emory, Virginia. The same year he was chosen as Appalachian Writer of the Year by Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Music writing[edit]

House is also a music journalist and a contributing editor to No Depression magazine, for which he has written features on Lucinda Williams, Delbert McClinton, and many others. House is also an in-demand press kit writer for Nashville's music business, having written press kit biographies for such artists as Kris Kristofferson, Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers, Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller, S.G. Goodman, Del McCoury, Lee Ann Womack, and many others. In 2001 and 2002, he was a regular contributor to NPR's All Things Considered.


Between 2005 and 2010 House was very visible in the fight against mountaintop removal mining, an environmentally devastating form of coal mining that blasts the entire top off a mountain and fills the valley below with debris. House says he got involved in the issue after being invited on a tour of devastated mountains by environmentalist, author, and public intellectual Wendell Berry. House wrote the original draft of the 2005 Kentucky authors' statement against the practice; since the draft, more than three dozen authors have signed it.[7]

House has been joined in this fight by other Kentucky writers, such as Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Maurice Manning.

Personal life[edit]

House was born and raised in Southeastern Kentucky. He presently lives in Lexington, Kentucky. He has two children and is married to writer and editor Jason Kyle Howard. He is an Episcopalian.[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2018 House's novel Southernmost was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and short-listed for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction as well as winning the Weatherford Award for Best Novel and the Judy Gaines Young Award in 2019. In 2017 he was inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Writers. House has been awarded three honorary doctorates. His other awards include the Nautilus, the Storylines Prize, the Hobson Medal for Literature, the Intellectual Freedom Award from the National Council of English Teachers, the Appalachian Book of the Year, the Lee Smith Award, the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Jesse Stuart Media Prize, two Kentucky Novel of the Year awards, and many others. In 2016 he was invited to speak at the Library of Congress.

In 2021 House was honored with the Artist Award from the Governors Award for the Arts, chosen by Kentucky governor Andy Beshear, recognizing House's contributions to the arts in his home state.

In 2022, House was given the largest monetary prize for an LGBTQ writer in the United States. Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelists' Prize is awarded through Lambda Literary.[9]

He was named Kentucky Poet Laureate by Governor Beshear in 2023. Those honors are to lead the state in promotion of literary arts and activities. Nominees are collected by the Kentucky Arts Council, reviewed by an independent panel with recommendations sent to the governor. [10] The Republican Governor's Association immediately used House in an attack ad against Beshear, calling House a "radical". The attack was criticized by the media [11] and by well-known personalities such as Jason Isbell,[12] Charles Booker,[13] and others.

In 2023 House's novel Lark Ascending was also given the Gold Medal designation by the Nautilus Book Awards, was chosen by Booklist as an "Editor's Choice", and won the Southern Book Prize.


  • 2001 Clay's Quilt (novel)
  • 2003 A Parchment of Leaves (novel)
  • 2004 The Coal Tattoo (novel)
  • 2005 The Hurting Part (play)
  • 2008 The Hurting Part (published playscript)
  • 2009 Something's Rising (non-fiction, co-authored with Jason Howard)
  • 2009 Long Time Travelling (play)
  • 2009 Eli the Good (novel)
  • 2009 Coal Country (edited by Silas House, Shirley Stewart Burns, and Mari Lyn Evans)
  • 2011 Chinaberry (a novel by James Still edited by Silas House)
  • 2012 This Is My Heart For You (play)
  • 2012 Same Sun Here (novel, co-authored with Neela Vaswani)
  • 2018 Southernmost (novel)
  • 2022 Lark Ascending (novel)


  1. ^ House, Silas Dwane. "Kentucky Birth Index (1911-1999)". Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Politics & Culture Writer, Essayist, Street Haunter". Jason Kyle Howard.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ "Shurbutt, S. Bailey. "The History of Every Country": Place in the Poetry and Fiction of Silas House". Retrieved Jan 3, 2021.
  4. ^ a b ""Silas House (1971- )" by Linda Scott DeRosier". KYLIT. May 13, 2003. Archived from the original on June 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
  5. ^ "Recruiters (paperback) by Silas House". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  6. ^ "Silas House Finds Hope in Thin Places".
  7. ^ "Kentucky Authors". Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. n.d. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
  8. ^ "Reckoning: An Interview with Silas House". 4 June 2019.
  9. ^ "VI KHI NAO and Silas House Win 2022 Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize". 10 June 2022.
  10. ^ Leach, Christopher (April 23, 2003). "New York Times bestselling author Silas House named next Kentucky poet laureate". Lexington Herald Leader. Retrieved April 23, 2003.
  11. ^ Blackford, Linda; GOP attack on Beshear through Poet Laureate Silas House reeks of desperation Read more at:
  12. ^ Isbell, Jason; Tweet
  13. ^ Booker, Charles; Tweet

External links[edit]