The Center for Fiction was thrilled to welcome two acclaimed creative powerhouses, Barbara Kingsolver and Silas House, for a discussion about the past, present, and future of social inequity, complex family ties, and the significance of story. Kingsolver’s heart-wrenching new novel, Demon Copperhead, is an extraordinary reimagining of David Copperfield set in the mountains of Southwest Virginia at the onset of the opioid epidemic. In 1850, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children—issues just as relevant today. Tapping into Dickens’s rage and compassion, Kingsolver paints a rich portrait of contemporary Appalachian life and speaks for a new generation of lost boys in a beautiful, historically cursed place. Silas House looks to the near future in his riveting story of survival and hope, Lark Ascending. As fires devastate most of the United States, a young man is forced to flee the United States and seek refuge across the Atlantic to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees.
By Barbara Kingsolver
Published by HarperCollins
“Anyone will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose.”
Demon Copperhead is set in the mountains of southern Appalachia. It’s the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.
Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.
By Silas House
Published by Algonquin Books
A riveting story of survival and hope, set in the not-too-distant future, about a young man forced to flee the United States and seek refuge across the Atlantic.
As fires devastate most of the United States, Lark and his family secure a place on a refugee boat headed to Ireland, the last country not yet overrun by extremists and rumored to be accepting American refugees. But Lark is the only one to survive the trip, and once ashore, he doesn’t find the safe haven he’d hoped for. As he runs for his life, Lark finds an abandoned dog who becomes his closest companion, and then a woman in search of her lost son. Together they form a makeshift family and attempt to reach Glendalough, a place they believe will offer protection. But can any community provide the safety that they seek?
For readers of novels such as Station Eleven, The Dog Stars, and Migrations, Lark Ascending is a moving and unforgettable story of friendship, family, and healing..
Barbara Kingsolver is the author of ten bestselling works of fiction, including the novels Unsheltered, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative nonfiction is the influential bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.
Photo Credit: Evan Kafka
Silas House is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, one book of creative nonfiction, and three plays. His writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the Advocate, Time, Garden and Gun, the New York Times, and elsewhere. A former commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered, House is also an executive producer and one of the subjects of the Hulu film Hillbilly, the winner of the Media Award from the Foreign Press Association and other honors. He is the winner of The Nautilus Award, the Storylines Prize from the NAV/New York Public Library, the Appalachian Book of the Year, an E.B. White Honor, and many other awards.
Photo Credit: C Williams