Where I Belong: a Novel About an Appalachian Non-Belonger

Yesterday I learned that my most recent novel, Where I Belong, is one of the 2016 finalists for the Selah Award.

Sometimes my stories begin in my head as a search for answers to questions. This novel began, as best I can remember, with the question: how does a young man from the southern Appalachians, raised by loving but imperfect parents, adjust to the outside world?

This age of refugees reminds us of the non-belonger. Refugees are those fleeing Syria’s brutal horror, but they are also the homeless in our cities.

Mark Pacer, the twenty-something young adult leaving tight-knit kinfolk behind to enter another era is, for a while, a non-belonger—to the older generation and sometimes to his new peers.

What do we owe our past tribes when we leave them, if anything?

What do we owe our families, if we are fortunate enough to have nurturing families? What do we not owe our families? What if we are drawn to different values?

When we leave one culture for another, whether as obvious refugees or less obvious ones, how do we handle our loneliness, the loneliness of the non-belonger? What values do we keep when entering a different culture, or when an alien culture threatens our own?

The Old Testament talks of the strangers and the aliens and calls us to treat them kindly.

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