Our Valentine For Appalachia


On this episode of Inside Appalachia, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to bring you voices from people who’ve written love letters for Appalachia, of a sort. And like most loves, this love, well…. it’s complicated.

Some of the folks we’ll hear on our show grew up in these mountains and were eager to move away, but when they did, they felt a strong homesickness that seemed to draw them back.

They realized that their love for Appalachia, well, it’s a love for a place that isn’t quite perfect.

This episode is a valentine addressed to Appalachia. We’ll hear from writers who love this region, including fantasy writer Neil Gaiman, who says some of his stories were inspired by Appalachian folktales.

“Books of mine, like American Gods, in some ways began with my readings of the Appalachian folktales,” Gaiman told Jesse Wright in an interview from 2015. 

But some writers like Ann Pancake, say their love for Appalachia is more complicated. Pancake says while growing up in West Virginia, she always wanted to get as far away from Appalachia as she could.

“It seems really strong in W.Va., this pull to come back, but also this pull to leave. So most of us live with that contradiction, that attraction of the place and the repulsion of the place.” 

We’ll also hear an interview with debut novelist Carrie Mullins, whose book Night Garden is about growing up in eastern Kentucky and the struggle many young people face fighting drug addiction.


Credit Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“There’s a certain sense of security and comfort with these mountains,” says Inside Appalachia’s host, Jessica Lilly. “It’s not perfect, we have our flaws, but true love takes the good with the bad and finds beauty in flaws.”

“When you love someone, you don’t just give up on them. Maybe that’s why this place has inspired some strong voices in writing.”

We’d love to hear your Appalachian love letter or perhaps a haiku poem. Just send us tweet @InAppalachia and use the #MyAppalachia.

Music in today’s show was provided by Ben Townsend, Dinosaur Burps, and Michael Howard.

Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.