Acclaimed Kentucky author wins 2021 Transylvania Judy Gaines Young Book Award

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Robert Gipe, a renowned Appalachian writer, has won Transylvania University’s 2021 Judy Gaines Young Book Award for his “Canard County” trilogy. The university will honor Gipes, along with student winner Olivia O’Neal Forester, at an awards event later this fall.

Gipe’s trilogy of books – “Trampoline,” “Weedeater” and “Pop” – are based on a fictitious county in Eastern Kentucky.

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Maurice Manning, a professor and writer in residence at Transylvania, claimed, “Gipe’s work is funny, but often the humor is used as a response to grave and complicated social issues.” Manning also stated, “Not only does he capture the hopes as well as the challenges of contemporary Appalachia, he complements his ingenious fiction with his own wonderful illustrations.”

Gipe, a Harlan County, Kentucky resident, is a former director of the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and a founder of the Higher Ground community performance project. The author also worked at Appalshop, a media arts center in Whitesburg.

In 2016, Gipe shared his work with the Transylvania community as a Delcamp visiting writer.

“I am honored to be this year’s recipient of the Judy Gaines Young award, but trust all will see what matters most in this: the diversity and richness of writing in Appalachia, and Young and Transylvania University’s commitment to drawing attention to that writing,” Gipe said. “Congratulations to all the writers, past and present, emerging and established, who have been nominated for this award, and to all those who have read their good works. And thank you to [professor emeritus] Martha Billips, Maurice Manning and others at Transylvania involved in administering the award. We are lucky to have you all.”

His winning novels are published by Ohio University Press.

Forester, the student winner and senior at Transylvania, is from the Mammoth Cave area in Edmonson County, Kentucky. Majoring in writing, rhetoric, and communication and minoring in art history, she has served as the public relations chair of the Transylvanian literary magazine, which has featured her prose and poetry. She’s also been the Student Activities Board president and founded an after-school tutoring program through the Charles Young Center and Calvary Baptist Church. Forester recently delivered a sermon at her college recognition ceremony. She said her “home, family and rural upbringing are often sources of inspiration.” These she cites as the cornerstones in her writing and life.

Manning said the award recognizes “[Forester’s] talents as a versatile writer and a significant contributor to the literary culture on campus.”

Transylvania’s Judy Gaines Young Book Award has recognized outstanding works by writers in the Appalachian region since 2015. The award was established by Byron Young, class of 1961, to honor his late wife, a 1962 graduate who was active in the local literary and arts community.

Previous winners include Frank X Walker, Silas House, Kathleen Driskell, Crystal Wilkinson, Amy Greene and Holly Goddard Jones.