|Silas House hangs pictures to dry at the Hindman Settlement School after the floods. (Photo provided to Garden & Gun)|
Kentucky novelist Silas House offers up two pieces on the recent flooding in Central Appalachia.
In the first, for Garden & Gun magazine, House recounts his journey to help preserve historical documents at the Hindman Settlement School, where he and his husband often teach in the Appalachian Writers' Workshop. The school began as a boarding school 120 years ago, but since 1977 has served as a hub for Appalachian writers and for the community in general. It still is, in the wake of the flood; the school is offering food and supplies to all comers, House writes.
"The help being provided at the Settlement School is indicative of the general attitude of people in the region," House writes. "Nobody is waiting for anyone else to come do the work. The people have armed themselves with rakes, hoes, and shovels. They’re moving debris and directing traffic alongside officials. Pentecostal church groups and organizations like Queer Kentucky
are working together to organize collection centers and deliver supplies."
In a piece for The Washington Post
, House reflects
on the nation's response to the flooding, the resilience of Appalachians in the face of repeated disasters, and why the poor are so often hurt the most by disasters (which, increasingly, are caused by climate change).
Though many Americans responded to news of the floods with compassion, others said Kentuckians got what they deserved for electing Republican senators and representatives who haven't supported legislation meant to address climate change. But House, whose family lost almost everything in a flood when he was a child, asks people to be more compassionate: "We can be better people by imagining ourselves in the most desperate situations of others."
He meditates on his complicated love for Appalachia, despite his frustration with its conservative voting. "You can love a place to your bones and still not completely understand it. We are people who have fought for labor rights and the environment for decades," House writes. "I’m the grandchild of a coal miner who lost his leg to the mines and years later gave his breath to them as well when he died of black lung, like so many others. We’ve fueled this nation with our timber, coal, gas, soldiers, music, literature and more for two centuries. Some of us stay here because we have no other choice; my family didn’t live in the flood plain because we wanted to but because we were poor."
House says climate-change disasters will most hurt the poor and powerless, and such people often live in places rich in natural resources. "It behooves the corporations that control these lands to keep the people poor and under their thumbs so they can suck the resources dry with the least amount of interference. The poorer the person, the less power they have to fight back or effect legislative change," he writes. "This has always been the case in Appalachia, where we are up against huge businesses and the government but also centuries-old stereotypes that were at least partly born to more easily snatch
our natural resources."