When You Love Someone, You Don't Just Give Up On Them: A Valentine to Appalachia


This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is addressed as a Valentine letter to Appalachia. Like most loves, this one is complicated. Some of the folks we spoke to for our show grew up in the mountains and were eager to move away. But when they did, they felt a strong homesickness that seemed to draw them back. They said their love for Appalachia is for a place that isn’t quite perfect. But they were inspired to write about it. Listen to the show to hear what they had to say.

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On this week’s show you’ll hear from these writers:

  • Poet Nikki Giovanni, who helped lead the Black Arts Movement in the 1960’s and ’70s. She says she loves several things about Appalachia: its defense of freedom, and how most people around here seem to know when enough is enough in regards to material wealth.

    Credit Shepherd University
    Poet and activist Nikki Giovanni
  • Neil Gaiman, who says some of his stories were inspired by Appalachian folktales
  • Ann Pancake, who said that while growing up in West Virginia, she always wanted to get as far away from here as she could. But when she did leave, her feelings for the mountains changed.

    Credit Andrew Carroll / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
    West Virginia Public Broadcasting
    Writer Ann Pancake at a reading at Davis and Elkins College

  • Trampoline’s author, Robert Gipe, who talks about how he based his debut novel on the difficult experiences many young people are dealing with as they’re growing up in Appalachia today.                            


Writer Robert Gipe

“There’s a certain sense of security and comfort with these mountains,” Inside Appalachia host Jessica Lilly says. “It’s not perfect, we have our flaws but true love takes the good with the bad and finds beauty in flaws. We heard from some writers with a love for this place too and recognize some things they might not agree with. When you love someone, you don’t just give up on them. Maybe that’s why this place has inspired some strong voices in activism.”

Subscribe to our Inside Appalachia podcast here or on iTunes here, or on Soundcloud here or on Stitcher here.

On this week’s episode you’ll also hear:

  • Ash-Lee Henderson, a young activist from Chattanooga share her story about her complicated love for Appalachia.
  • Pucker up buttercup! This week for What’s in a Name, can you guess a town in Appalachia where you might take your sweetheart for a kiss? Give our episode a listen to hear the answer.

We’d love to hear your Appalachian love letter. Just send us tweet @InAppalachia and use the #MyAppalachia. You can e-mail us at

Music in today’s show was also provided by Andy Agnew Jr., Ben Townsend, Eric Bibb with “New World Comin’ Through” as heard on Mountain Stage. Jake Schepps,  the Glenville State Bluegrass Band, and  our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition.
Readings from Neil Gaiman’s book American Gods are courtesy of HarperCollins.  
Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. Our editor is Catherine Winter.