Eastern Kentucky award winning writer Silas House has released his 6th novel. House told WEKU’s Cheri Lawson there are at least three themes to “Southernmost” including the unbreakable bond between a parent and child, the complexity of rural people, and people of faith who have different ways of believing.
Silas House tells me “Southernmost” starts, “the weekend marriage equality is passed by the Supreme Court… It’s the same weekend a devastating flood hits a fictional community in a Tennessee town.” A gay couple’s house is washed away and they go to Evangelical pastor Asher Sharp seeking shelter. His wife refuses them shelter. This has a big impact on Asher because 10 years prior he rejected his brother who is gay. In Silas Houses words, “Asher has been wanting a do- over because he loves his brother but was raised to reject ‘somebody like that’.” So he decides to act.
Silas: “So he starts to be outspoken on the issue. Of course he loses his church, he gets divorced and he loses custody of his little boy and so he kidnaps his little boy and he runs off to Key West.”
CL: “Why did you write the book? You happen to be gay, right? When did you come out? “
SH: “Very late in life , I was 34.”
CL: “When did you know?”
SH: “When I was about 12.”
CL: “Do you kind of blame your southern culture, where you grew up, on why it was so late?”
SH: “For me it was more about being raised in the evangelical church and just being told you could ‘pray it away’ and denying my own self. I didn’t really want to write a coming out book though.
I wanted to write a novel that was more from the point of view of people who love somebody with whom they fundamentally disagree. And I think that all of us can relate to that in one way or another even if it’s not about LGBTQ issues.”
CL: “How realistic is this scenario? Evangelical preacher has a gay brother, that’s realistic. Rejects him, that’s realistic. Then all of a sudden this big change and takes his son, how realistic?”
SH: “Well, another thing, the book is based on is that sometime in the mid 2000’s a Methodist pastor was ex-communicated from the Methodist church because he went against the churches by-laws. His son asked him to perform his marriage ceremony, his gay son and he did. So I was thinking a lot about that pastor and how he really put himself on the line and I read somewhere he said something like, I had been thinking quietly about this for years but I finally had to act on it; and I think a whole lot of us have had moments where we’ve quietly thought about things and then suddenly we have to stand up and say something.”
CL: “What have you been quiet about, have yet to do something about?”
SH: “You know I never wrote about being gay until this book. And so I think I was quiet about that for a long time, not really because I was hiding but just because I didn’t want that to be my whole identity. I think of myself as a very multi-faceted person and I think often when you’re gay you get reduced down to that’s all you are in a way that a straight writer isn’t thought of that way.”
At a recent book signing in Cincinnati, Silas reads to a standing room only crowd
Fort Thomas resident Jessica Canterbury says she first heard Silas House read at Eastern Kentucky University in 2001 . “Southernmost” spoke to her as a parent.
Canterbury: “Just that struggle to set a good example for your kids but also be true to yourself really hit home with me.”
CL: Was there anything that you were surprised by?
Canterbury: “I didn’t know it was going to have so much to do with the struggle between religion and homosexuality and that really appealed to me.”
Listening to Silas talk about “Southernmost”, Andrew Boettcher says the idea of religion struck a chord with him as someone in the LGBTQ community .
Boettcher: “My grandparents were devout Catholics and you just kind of wonder about your place in the religion,do I fit into this anymore?”
Southernmost covers everything from politics to parenthood . Hear the longer version of my interview with Silas House at WEKU.fm