Must Reads from Appalachian LGBTQ+ Voices

Serving as the seedbed for the Appalachian literary tradition for over a century, Hindman Settlement School aims to lift up the voices and stories of the people who call our region home. 

For Pride Month, observed annually during the month of June, we asked our alumni community to share with us some of the literature by LGBTQ+ writers and books they recommend reading in celebration. All of the books recommended below are from our own faculty and alumni. Click a book to purchase through or order from your local independent bookseller.

One of O Magazine’s Best LGBT Books of 2020
A Kirkus Best Fiction Book of 2020
A Finalist for the Southern Book Prize

In the aftermath of a flood that washes away much of a small Tennessee town, evangelical preacher Asher Sharp offers shelter to two gay men. In doing so, he starts to see his life anew—and risks losing everything: his wife, locked into her religious prejudices; his congregation, which shuns Asher after he delivers a passionate sermon in defense of tolerance; and his young son, Justin, caught in the middle of what turns into a bitter custody battle.

Long-Listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
Chosen as a Best Book of the Year by The Advocate, Garden and Gun, Southern Living, Paste, and Booklist

Savannah Sipple is on fire. Unapologetically queer and Appalachian, Sipple will take you to church in these poems, busting open every stereotype along the way. She writes fearlessly about desire, bodies, shame, violence, forgiveness, and self-love, and the poems are fierce, sassy, and aching. Savannah Sipple is a talented, fresh new voice. 

—Carter Sickels, author of The Prettiest Star and The Evening Hour

American Library Association Recommended LGBTQ Reading Selection

Melissa Helton is a poet who is a subsistence farmer, which is to say she has pulled the trigger, she has held the knife, she has slit the throat. The same hands that wrote these poems know well the bone, the gristle, the meanness and grace from which we all primordial rise. That this is Helton’s expertise would be enough to make me eager for her first book and for her last. But what I didn’t know, and what you too might be startled to learn is that these poems, this book, is grown also of the celestial seed interred in us each-the sky’s constellations and ours, the connect-the-dot stars.

–Rebecca Gayle Howell, author of Render / An Apocalypse, senior editor of Oxford American Magazine

When something embarrassing happens to you, what is the first thing you do? Look around to see if anyone else saw you? Not Keith Stewart. Instead, he writes it all down and shares it with the world. Join in on the fun as Keith shares his Hysterical stories that include ripping down gas pumps, fighting with a bird trapped inside a grocery store, and confronting the one and only Bernadette Peters. After reading the hilarious memoir of this klutzy, southern man, you will feel better about your own humiliating moments, and instantly feel like you have gained a new best friend.

In addition to these works from our Settlement family, our community recommended titles from both established and emerging writers in Appalachia.