House, Silas D. 1971–

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HOUSE, Silas D. 1971–

PERSONAL:

Born 1971, in KY; son of Duke and Betty House; married; wife's name Theresa; children: Cheyenne, Olivia Jean Louise. Education: Attended Sue Bennett College (now closed); Eastern Kentucky College, B.A., 1994.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Lily, KY.

CAREER:

United States Post Office, Lily, KY, substitute rural carrier, 1996—; Spalding University, Louisville, KY, former faculty member in M.F.A. writing program; Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, TN, former writer in residence. Press kit and promotional writer for musical artists in Nashville, TN. Regular contributor to radio program All Things Considered, National Public Radio.

AWARDS, HONORS:

National Society of Arts and Letters Award, Kentucky Arts Council, 1997; named one of ten emerging writers, Millennial Gathering of Writers, 2000; Pushcart Prize finalist, 2003; Kentucky's Best Writer distinction, 2003, 2005; Appalachian Book of the Year Award, Kentucky Novel of the Year Award, both 2005, both for The Coal Tattoo; Kentucky Literary Award for Best Novel, for A Parchment of Leaves; Bronze Book Award, ForeWord magazine; James Still Award for Special Achievement, Fellowship of Southern Writers; Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature.

WRITINGS:

novels

Clay's Quilt, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2001.

A Parchment of Leaves, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2002.

The Coal Tattoo, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.

other

Contributor to anthologies, including New Stories from the South 2004, Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe, The Alumni Grill, Of Woods and Water, Missing Mountains, Crossing Troublesome, Christmas in the South, and A Kentucky Christmas. Contributor to periodicals, including Oxford American, Newsday, Beloit Fiction Journal, Louisville Review, Bayou, Night Train, and Southeast Review. Contributing editor, No Depression magazine. Columnist, Lexington Herald-Leader.

SIDELIGHTS:

Silas D. House has lived his entire life in eastern Kentucky. He makes his home in Lily, Kentucky, with his wife and two daughters and is employed as a substitute rural mail carrier. House thinks up stories and ideas for novels while delivering the mail on his route. House's debut novel, Clay's Quilt, is the story of Clay Sizemore, who at the age of four witnesses the murder of his mother. After her death, a loving aunt raises him. As an adult, Clay goes to work as a coal miner and falls in love with Alma, a fiddler who is separated from her abusive husband. Clay never forgets his mother's violent death, however, and begins to piece together her history when he is given a box of her possessions and a quilt made from her clothing by his great-uncle. Michele Leber praised the novel in Booklist as "a lovely and accomplished literary debut."

A Parchment of Leaves, House's second novel, tells the story of Vine, a young Cherokee woman, and her courtship and marriage to Irish immigrant Saul Sullivan in 1917 rural Kentucky. As she adjusts to her life with Saul, Vine battles homesickness for the tribe she left behind on Redbud Mountain. Soon their marriage produces a child, a fragile girl they name Birdie. As the story progresses, Vine realizes that Saul's brother Aaron has developed a romantic interest in her. She tries to warn her husband, but he does not believe her. When Saul is away working at a sawmill, Aaron makes his move, but Vine manages to turn him away. Later, Aaron returns home with a Native American wife, one who looks much like Vine and who bears the brunt of his drinking and anger. Saul returns from the sawmill and tries to help his brother, but his efforts go nowhere. When Saul once again departs, Vine's situation with Aaron worsens and threatens to degenerate into violence as Vine struggles to save her marriage and her life. House's "lovely storytelling, graceful prose, strong characters, and his feel for Southern rural life distinguish" the novel, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson called the novel a "moving love story set against a stunningly beautiful background," and commented favorably on House's "quietly eloquent prose."

The title of House's The Coal Tattoo refers to an indelible black mark left on the skin of miners who have been injured in mining accidents and tunnel collapses. It is "a lasting sign of survival and sacrifice and a perfect image for House's moving tale," remarked Andrea Jeyaveeran in Sojourners. The book's setting "breathes and hums with life," Jeyaveeran observed. Orphaned sisters Anneth and Easter are polar opposites in attitude and behavior. Sixteen-year-old Anneth is rebellious, a free-spirited girl who sneaks out in the evenings to drink and dance to the sound of rock-and-roll music at the local Kentucky honky-tonks. Easter is a devoutly religious Pentecostal, determined to live righteously, to support the church and the word of God, and to take care of her sister. Yet in the tragic aftermath of their father's death in a mining accident and their mother's subsequent suicide, the two young women forge a family bond that is unbreakable, despite their considerable differences. A mutual but unspoken admiration for the qualities absent from one but seen in the other also bolsters their relationship.

When Anneth runs off to Nashville with a budding musician, she finds herself so intensely homesick that she eventually has to return. Easter falls in love with and marries El, but a miscarriage severely tests her faith and strength. Scarred by their experiences but still strongly devoted to each other, the two women face the uncertainties of war, economic disaster, and the aftereffects of personal misfortune. The novel "encompasses all the elements for a classic and [House's] slow, sensuous style will take your breath away," commented Catherine Ekbert in Reviewer's Bookwatch. Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson called the novel "starkly beautiful," an "overtly literary" piece of fiction written in "prose that is both lovely and cadenced."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

periodicals

Booklist, March 1, 2001, Michele Leber, review of Clay's Quilt, p. 1226; August, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of A Parchment of Leaves, p. 1920; July, 2004, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Coal Tattoo, p. 1818.

Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Maureen Neville, review of A Parchment of Leaves, p. 91.

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2001, review of Clay's Quilt, p. 57; August 5, 2002, review of A Parchment of Leaves, p. 50.

Reviewer's Bookwatch, March, 2005, Catherine Ekbert, review of The Coal Tattoo.

Sojourners, October, 2004, Andrea Jeyaveeran, "Marked by the Land," review of The Coal Tattoo, p. 43.

online

Courier-Journal Online, http://www.courier-journal.com/ (May 29, 2006), C. Ray Hall, "A Man of Letters."

Kentucky Educational Television Web site,http://www.ket.org/ (May 29, 2006), biography of Silas D. House.

Official Silas D. House Web site,http://members.aol.com/silashouse (May 29, 2006).

Silas House Home Page,http://www.silashouse.com (May 29, 2006).

Southern Living Online,http://www.southernliving.com/ (May 29, 2006), review of Clay's Quilt.*

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