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books: All in the Family

Through the specific, author Silas House teaches the universal.


"I'm part Cherokee," House says. "Vine was originally based on my own great-grandmother who was a Cherokee. I wanted to write about her life." Through the eyes of Vine the reader witnesses first hand the difficulties of living in a different culture as well as the love and companionship that overcome them.

House's focus on filial ties is reflected in the time period in which his novels take place. "The beginning of the twentieth century was a very transitional time in America," House says. "It was before equal rights and before people were so homogenized. I like how this period shows the uniqueness of people coming together and how they survived together." This solidarity reflects the strength and fortitude it took to live in such a rural environment. The faith in neighbors and trust in friends is what helped to raise cabins and endure the cold winter months. Having been raised in a tightly-knit family, House is fascinated by such a dynamic. "Family was more important then than it is now," House says. "It's so easy to live apart now but back then family stayed together more."

House's first job was one you wouldn't expect of a writer. Instead of taking a teaching or a technical-writing position after college, House became a rural mail carrier. His daily route took about four hours and House was able to write while on the job. The job helped him describe the culture as well as the natural world that plays such a vital role in his books. "When you get caught in a thunderstorm while you're walking your route you get a pretty intimate knowledge of nature," House says laughingly. The job also helped to develop his insights into human nature. "Delivering mail in the country allows you to get to know people in intimate ways," House says. "People wait out by their mailbox and tell you the stories of their lives in five-minute intervals."

The connection that House's fiction makes with the reader is one of recognition. Under his skill and talent, Appalachia becomes a microcosm for America itself. "The universal can be only found in the specific," House says, "and the ideas of religion, community and family are the things that I was brought up with." House's books always come back to one theme, like the author's name — the home. S

Silas House will be one of the headliners for the Junior League's 58th annual Book and Author Dinner May 8 at 7 p.m. For more information call 643-4886.

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