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Silas House, New Novel

Novelist, activist, and educator Silas House discusses his book to be released later this year that focuses on parenthood, his work as an advocate for environmental and gender equity causes, and other topics.
Season 13 Episode 16 Length 28:03 Premiere: 01/16/18

Silas House on His Upcoming Novel and Appalachian Homeland

Long before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements made headlines, novelist Silas House got an important lesson from his grandmother about how to treat women. The widow supported her nine children by working at the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Corbin. In Harland Sanders’ kitchen, Ethel Mae House endured the disrespect of her male coworkers who felt free to insult and pinch her.

“When she was in her 80s and I was a little boy, she would tell me about that and say, ‘Don’t you ever be that way,’” House says.

Ethel Mae was one of the “strong mountain women” who helped raise House and set him on the course to being a bestselling author and an activist for gender equity and other causes. The Laurel County native appeared on KET’s Connections to discuss his life and his forthcoming novel. In addition to his writing, House is the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College.

The Mentors Who Inspired Social Activism
The childhood conversation with his grandmother ignited a spark of social justice in House – a spark that was fanned into a flame by other important people in his life. House says his parents were models of empathy and compassion. Their quiet acts of kindness, like helping a neighbor child in need, showed House that doing good for others was its own reward.

Now House is showing his daughters how to be compassionate and socially active. The novelist spoke at the Lexington sister rally to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. House told his grandmother’s story, and encouraged men to speak out against violence against women and advocate for reproductive rights. House describes the experience as one of the most amazing moments of his life.

“It was empowering,” says House. “I was doing it not just because I have daughters, not just because I have a mother and cousins and aunts, but because I felt like it was the right thing to do to speak up.”

House credits fellow Kentucky writer Wendell Berry with being another important influence in his life. He says Berry encouraged him to join the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining and other environmental issues. Berry also taught House to not be afraid to speak his own truth.

“He’s a role mode for all of us because, when you get right down to it, everything that Wendell stands for is just compassion,” House says. “How can you go wrong with that?”

Whether it’s opposing sexism and sexual harassment or ravages against the natural world, House says it’s up to the people to change the culture. That’s especially true in Kentucky, a state that House says fascinates him and frustrates him.

“I think that we’re in a situation right now where a lot of our legislators in Kentucky are not representing us properly,” House says. “So when that happens, we have to take hold of the plow, and I think Kentuckians historically have done that. That’s the kind of people we are.”

The Powerlessness of Parenthood
The themes of social change and parent-and-child bonds are at the center of House’s new novel, “Southernmost,” which will be released in June. The book tells the story of evangelical minister in a small Tennessee town who loses his job, his wife, and custody of his son after giving a sermon defending the rights of gay people. The minister decides to kidnap his boy and take him to Key West to show him new ways of thinking and being.

“I like to live vicariously through other characters,” says House. “They enable me to tell an essential truth.”

In this case, the essential truths are about compassion and parenting. House says he started writing the book as his daughters approached their high school graduations and he began to face the prospect of an empty nest at home.

“It made me think about how the biggest trait of being a parent is a powerlessness – that you really have no power over anything,” House says. “No matter how hard you work to make [your kids] safe and to have everything they need, when they’re sent out into the world, you have no control.”

Although a lifelong lover of books and reading, House partially attributes his desire to become a writer to television.

“I was so lucky to grow up in a time when two of the biggest TV shows were about writers: ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and ‘The Waltons,’” says House.

The lead characters in those programs, Laura Ingalls and John-Boy Walton, showed him it was possible to come from a rural, hardscrabble background and still aspire to be writer.

“I could be a country boy and also somebody who loved literature,” he says.

“Think Globally, Act Hillbilly”
But House realizes his mountain upbringing isn’t necessarily representative of all of Appalachia, or even his part of it in southeastern Kentucky. That’s one reason why he’s feels troubled by the popularity of the 2016 book “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance.

“He makes the case that his family is the epitome of what an Appalachian family is, and it’s not what my Appalachian family was,” House says. “All I can tell is my personal story. I’m not going to say that’s everybody, and I feel like [Vance’s] book does that.”

House says he doesn’t believe Vance has any malicious intent, but he says “Hillbilly Elegy” lacks the proper historical context to give people a better understanding of mountain culture. House recommends Ron Eller’s “Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945” as a better primer on the region and its challenges.

That’s not to say that House isn’t aware of the shortcomings of rural mountain people. He says anybody who truly loves a place, especially writers from that place, must have the courage to critique it.

“You have to be somewhat of an outsider to articulate all the complexity, especially when you are thinking about literature about rural people,” House says. “There’s a real danger of either romanticizing or vilifying. Both of those things are really dangerous and wrong, and I think a good writer just wants to write about that complexity and get at the nuances.”

House remains fully grounded in his native Appalachia. He says he embraces the term “hillbilly” with a sense of pride even as some people level it as an insult against mountain people.

But House is also committed to embracing the wider world. A sign in his dining room even says “Think globally, act hillbilly.” House says that sentiment echoes the message in one of his favorite pieces of literature. In “The Brier Sermon,” Appalachian writer Jim Wayne Miller’s main character implores his people to think ocean to ocean, not just ridge to ridge in their native mountains.

“What he’s saying is that we can celebrate the local, and we can support the local, and be as much a part of our local economy and our local community as possible,” House says. “But we can also be global people. We can also be people who travel and who consume information from all over the world. We don’t have to chose between the local and global.”

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Season 13 Episodes

Marcie Timmerman - Mental Health and Wellness

S13 E43 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 08/24/18

Tiffany Manuel - Affordable Housing

S13 E42 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 08/17/18

Jessica Dueñas - 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year

S13 E41 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 08/10/18

2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book

S13 E37 Length 28:48 Premiere Date 07/13/18

A New Task Force on Opioids

S13 E36 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 07/06/18

Shining a Spotlight on Epilepsy

S13 E35 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 06/29/18

Criminal Justice Reform

S13 E34 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 06/22/18

Jay Box - Kentucky Community and Technical College

S13 E33 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/15/18

Interim Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis

S13 E32 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/08/18

Bob King - Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

S13 E31 Length 28:09 Premiere Date 06/01/18

Rachel Childress - Lexington Habitat for Humanity

S13 E30 Length 26:22 Premiere Date 05/25/18

2018 Kentucky Primary Races

S13 E29 Length 29:52 Premiere Date 05/18/18

Dr. Donna Grigsby

S13 E28 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 05/11/18

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention

S13 E27 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 05/04/18

Kosair Charities Face It Movement; Terry Brooks

S13 E25 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 04/20/18

Child Marriage Laws in Kentucky - Donna Pollard

S13 E24 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 04/13/18

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

S13 E23 Length 29:22 Premiere Date 04/06/18

Secretary Derrick Ramsey - Apprenticeships

S13 E22 Length 28:09 Premiere Date 02/23/18

Educational Innovation

S13 E21 Length 28:45 Premiere Date 02/16/18

Gerald Smith

S13 E20 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 02/09/18

Perry Bacon Jr.

S13 E18 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 02/02/18

DV8 Kitchen

S13 E17 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 01/19/18

Silas House, New Novel

S13 E16 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 01/16/18

Tawanda Owsley

S13 E15 Length 26:32 Premiere Date 01/05/18

Sexual Harassment Issues

S13 E14 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 12/15/17

Disability Rates and Benefits

S13 E13 Length 27:27 Premiere Date 12/08/17

Good Samaritans

S13 E12 Length 28:42 Premiere Date 11/17/17

A Salute to Heroes

S13 E10 Length 26:18 Premiere Date 11/10/17

Legislative Health Policy

S13 E9 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 11/03/17

Elder Care

S13 E8 Length 29:31 Premiere Date 10/27/17

Preventing Youth Suicide

S13 E7 Length 28:17 Premiere Date 10/20/17

A Proposal for Pension Reform

S13 E6 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/13/17

Rethinking Pain Medication

S13 E5 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/06/17

Former Gov. Steve Beshear

S13 E4 Length 28:53 Premiere Date 09/29/17

Secretary Elaine Chao

S13 E3 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/22/17

Smoking Cessation and Pregnancy

S13 E2 Length 29:32 Premiere Date 09/08/17

Author and Journalist Sam Quinones

S13 E1 Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/01/17

Author and Journalist Sam Quinones

Preview Length 28:52 Premiere Date 09/01/17

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Good Samaritans - Surgery on Sunday; Bluegrass Families First and One Parent Scholar House

Premiered On: 11/17/2017

Lexington plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Moore talks about Surgery on Sunday, providing outpatient essential surgical services at no cost to income-eligible, uninsured or underinsured individuals. Then, Kelly Duffy talks about Bluegrass Families First (BFF), a non-profit that provides opportunities for early childhood development, adult education, and other services helping Lexington families move toward self-sufficiency. BFF supports three organizations: The Family Care Center; The Nest Center for Women, Children, and Families; and One Parent Scholar House. Mirsada Simic talks about One Parent Scholar House and its Child Development Center with a 5-star curriculum program.

  • Monday December 26, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday December 26, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday December 26, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday December 26, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday December 26, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday December 26, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY

Sexual Harassment Issues - Consultant Rus Funk

Premiered On: 12/15/2017

Renee's guest is Rus Funk, a consultant on gender equity, anti-racism, and violence prevention. He serves on the board of the National Center on Sexual and Domestic Violence. Funk talks about the spate of sexual harassment charges that have dominated news headlines and offers advice on helping men learn how to modify their behavior to create a professional and respectful work environment.

  • Tuesday December 27, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 27, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 27, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 27, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 27, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday December 27, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY

Silas House

Premiered On: 01/12/2018

Novelist, activist, and educator Silas House discusses his book to be released later this year that focuses on parenthood, his work as an advocate for environmental and gender equity causes, and other topics.

  • Wednesday December 28, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday December 28, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY
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Dominique Wilkins - S11 E41

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UK President Eli Capilouto - S18 E6

  • Thursday November 24, 2022 11:30 pm ET on KET
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Gary Tuggle - S11 E40

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Dr. Leana Wen - S11 E39

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Terrence Walton - S11 E38

  • Tuesday November 22, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack - S11 E37

  • Monday November 21, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday November 21, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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Author Emily Bingham - S18 E11

  • Sunday November 20, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
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Kimberly Johnson - S11 E36

  • Friday November 18, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Jason Merrick - S11 E35

  • Thursday November 17, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Fayette County Veterans Treatment Court - S11 E34

  • Wednesday November 16, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Dr. Lynne Saddler - S11 E33

  • Tuesday November 15, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Tuesday November 15, 2022 2:25 pm ET on KETKY
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Scott Hesseltine - S11 E32

  • Monday November 14, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Bill Goodman - Kentucky Humanities - S18 E10

  • Sunday November 20, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
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  • Saturday November 19, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Jessie Laine Powell - S11 E31

  • Friday November 11, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Oral Health Care In Kentucky - S11 E30

  • Thursday November 10, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Kishonna Gray - S11 E29

  • Wednesday November 9, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Gretchen Hunt - S11 E28

  • Tuesday November 8, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Dr. Erin Frazier - S11 E27

  • Monday November 7, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Restoring American Democracy - S18 E9

  • Friday November 25, 2022 11:00 pm ET on KET2
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Crystal Wilkinson - S11 E26

  • Friday November 4, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday November 4, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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  • Friday November 4, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Criminal Justice Reform - Cherise Fanno Burdeen - S13 E34

  • Thursday November 3, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday November 3, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes - S11 E25

  • Thursday November 3, 2022 2:16 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday November 3, 2022 1:16 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday November 3, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention - S11 E24

  • Wednesday November 2, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 2, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 2, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday November 2, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

A Tribute to Georgia Davis Powers - S11 E18

  • Tuesday November 1, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 1, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 1, 2022 2:18 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 1, 2022 1:18 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 1, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday November 1, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Andrew Brennen - S11 E17

  • Monday October 31, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday October 31, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday October 31, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday October 31, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday October 31, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday October 31, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Breast Cancer - S18 E8

  • Sunday November 6, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday November 6, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday November 5, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday November 5, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday October 30, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday October 30, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday October 30, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday October 30, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday October 30, 2022 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday October 30, 2022 11:00 am CT on KET

Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams - S18 E7

  • Sunday October 30, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday October 30, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday October 29, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday October 29, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY

Anthony Smith - S11 E16

  • Friday October 28, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday October 28, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday October 28, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday October 28, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
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Wayne Lewis - S11 E15

  • Thursday October 27, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday October 27, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday October 27, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday October 27, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear - S11 E11

  • Wednesday October 26, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 26, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 26, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 26, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 26, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday October 26, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Miss Kentucky Clark Davis - S11 E10

  • Tuesday October 25, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday October 25, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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