Silas House talks about importance of shining spotlight on Appalachian experiences

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Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 11:40 PM EDT
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ASHLAND, Ky. (WYMT) - Silas House crafted a career through his writing and storytelling, carving out a safe space for Appalachians to tell their own stories.

The author, poet and music journalist has been writing most of his life, raised in a family of storytellers with a love for the region they call home.

“So much of American history, other people were telling the story about Appalachia,” House said. “Recently, more and more Appalachians are telling their own story.”

House spoke to attendees at the Appalachian Regional Commission’s annual conference this week, as Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, sharing his story and discussing the importance of shining the spotlight on true Appalachian experiences.

“Raised by family that taught me to be proud of where I’m from and to be proud of our culture; to not let other people negate me because of where I’m from,” he said.

He said there are as many versions of Appalachia as there are people, but they all share a common thread and deserve to be given the space to breathe.

Part of his storytelling has been in a national spotlight recently after a collaboration with Eastern Kentucky’s rising country music star Tyler Childers.

“LGBT people have always existed in Appalachia but so many people have never seen themselves in country music video,” said House.

The video, a music video for Childers’ single “In Your Love,” presented the love story between two miners, faced with homophobia and finding their own version of home. House said it was an important message that they were tasked with telling in less than five minutes, but he is glad the team was up to the challenge.

“Makes it worth all of the hateful response that you get- to just meet people who tell you, ‘I saw myself for the first time in country music,’ or ‘this video has given me strength to keep going and to tell my own story.’”

House said the response has been more positive than negative, and he is glad to have been part of the project.

He said he hopes it will show the region and all of its complexities.

“It always makes me proud to be from Eastern Kentucky and from Appalachia,” he said. “Because of that work ethic and because of that hope that we continue to hang on to.”

More than that, he hopes it will highlight the importance of Appalachians being the ones to share the stories of Appalachia.