Two Renowned Authors Offer ‘Advice from Appalachian Intellectuals’ to Berea College Graduates, May 4

Watch the live video stream on the day of commencement.

bell hooks, a celebrated author and social activist, and Silas House, a best-selling novelist and environmental activist, will address 271 members of Berea College’s 142nd graduating class during a special commencement service titled “Advice from Appalachian Intellectuals.” Both commencement speakers are faculty members in Berea College’s Loyal Jones Appalachian Center.

The graduation ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 4, at 2 p.m. in the main arena of Seabury Athletic Center. A live video feed will be viewable to overflow crowds in the Upper Seabury gym. The baccalaureate service will be held at 10:30 a.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel and feature the Rev. Roger Ferlo, Ph.D. He is president of the Bexley Hall Seabury Western Seminary Federation, an Episcopal center for learning and discipleship in Chicago, Columbus and Indianapolis.

Celebrated as one of our nation’s leading public intellectuals by “The Atlantic Monthly,” as well as one of “Utne Reader’s” “100 visionaries who could change your life,” bell hooks is Distinguished Professor-in-Residence in Appalachian Studies at Berea College. Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, she has chosen the lower-case pen name bell hooks (in honor of her mother and grandmother) to emphasize the importance of the substance of her writing. She is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on the issues of social class, race and gender.

bell hooks remains an active writer, scholar and public intellectual. She appeared with Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC’s “The Melissa Harris Perry Show” in November 2013 to a standing-room-only audience in New York City. Her recent works include a critique of the critically acclaimed film “Beasts of the Southern Wild” as well as commentaries on works such as “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg (titled “Dig Deep: Beyond Lean In,” which has received more than 20,000 likes on Facebook and 3,000 Tweets). bell has also written about her return to her beloved Kentucky in “Belonging: A Culture of Place,” and her book of poetry, “Appalachian Elegy,” received the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s Best Poetry Award in 2013.

Dr. hooks earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her doctorate from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her early works include the now classic “Ain’t I a Woman” (1981) and “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” (1984). She has held teaching positions at Yale University and was a tenured professor at Oberlin College, the first interracial, coeducational college in the United States. Before joining the faculty at Berea College, she was the distinguished professor-in-residence at City College of New York.

Silas House, a native of Lily, Kentucky, in Laurel County, has served as the National Endowment for the Humanities chair in Appalachian studies at Berea College since 2010. He is an award-winning author of five best-selling novels: “Clay’s Quilt” (2001), “A Parchment of Leaves” (2003), “The Coal Tattoo” (2004), “Eli the Good” (2009) and “Same Sun Here” (co-authored with Neela Vaswani, 2012); three plays, “The Hurting Part” (2005), “Long Time Travelling” (2009), “This Is My Heart For You” (2012; premiered at Berea College); and “Something’s Rising” (2009), a creative nonfiction book about social protest co-authored with Jason Howard. House was selected to edit “Chinaberry” (2011), the posthumous manuscript of acclaimed writer James Still. He recently finished his novel “Little Fire,” which will be published in 2015.

House is the winner of numerous awards, including the E. B. White Award, the Audie Award, the Nautilus Award, a two-time finalist for the Southern Book Critics Circle Prize, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Novel of the Year, the Parents’ Choice Award, the Appalachian Writer of the Year, the Lee Smith Award, the Hobson Medal for Literature, the Appalachian Book of the Year, the Jesse Stuart Award, the Chaffin Prize for Literature, and the Award for Special Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. For his social justice activism, House has been hailed as “a folk hero” by ACE Magazine and received the Helen Lewis Award for Community Service. He was also awarded the Intellectual Freedom Prize by the National Council of English Teachers.  House’s work has been published multiple times in “The New York Times” as well as in “Newsday,” “Sojourners,” “Oxford American,” and many other publications. His writing has also been widely anthologized. House is a former commentator for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

House earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in 1994. He later earned his master’s degree in creative writing at Spalding University in 2004 and an honorary doctorate from EKU in 2013. He has served on the fiction faculty of the MFA program at Spalding since 2006. House lives in Berea with his partner and two daughters.

Other graduation events will be held throughout the day. A pinning ceremony for nursing graduates will be held at 8:30 a.m. in Phelps Stokes Chapel, followed at 10:30 a.m. by the baccalaureate service. A luncheon for graduation candidates and their families will be served at 11:30 a.m. in the Alumni building.

Following the commencement service, a reception for graduates, families and guests will be held on the campus Quad or, in case of rain, in academic buildings adjacent to the Seabury Center.

Categories: News, People
Tags: Advice from Appalachian Intellectuals, bell hooks, Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, The Melissa Harris Perry Show

Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, focuses on learning, labor and service. The College only admits academically promising students with limited financial resources—primarily from Kentucky and Appalachia—but welcomes students from 41 states and 76 countries. Every Berea student receives a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which means no Berea student pays for tuition. Berea is one of nine federally recognized Work Colleges, so students work 10 hours or more weekly to earn money for books, housing and meals. The College’s motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth,” speaks to its inclusive Christian character.