A friend recently wrote Jeff Mann about LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia, the first anthology of poetry and fiction by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia.

“My friend talked about how isolated he felt growing up,” says Mann, an associate professor of creative writing at Virginia Tech. “He said if he had seen a book with a title like that in the library or bookstore, it would have made him feel a lot less isolated.”

For Mann, a two-time Lambda Literary Award–winning author, the note affirmed his reasons for accepting the publisher’s invitation to edit the book in collaboration with Julia Watts, a novelist from Tennessee.

The West Virginia University Press anthology features the work of 18 writers and poets, including both editors.

Although the project took time away from his own writing, Mann says it was an important act for the press to publish the book during a time in which LGBTQ people are experiencing so much turmoil.

“The best thing about this book,” he says, “is it will make it easier for people to balance their gay and lesbian identities with their Appalachian identities than it was for me or my generation. I spent decades trying to figure out how I could be a gay man and Appalachian at the same time, and here is proof that all kinds of writers have negotiated these two identities.”

Written and photographed by Leslie King