Neema Avashia

Laura Cennamo


Having grown up in Appalachia, teacher and author Neema Avashia knows that people often have a singular understanding of what being ‘Appalachian’ means. “One book in particular,” Avashia says,” referring to the bestselling Hillbilly Elegy, “was positioned as a definitive explanation of Appalachia, sat on The New York Times Bestseller list for over a year, and did not even begin to acknowledge the longtime presence of Black folks, immigrants, queer people, or political radicals in the region.” Born in West Virginia to immigrant parents, Avashia wanted to highlight the diversity of her home region in her first book, Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place. The memoir garnered numerous accolades: it was named Book Riot’s Best LGBTQ+ Memoir of 2022, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and found a spot on the New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2022. Her hope is that by sharing her own experience she can be a mirror for others, especially for younger adults and teenagers, who don’t always see themselves represented in popular narratives. “I grew up without mirrors in the books that I read, and I know that it made my road infinitely harder because I didn’t have models to help me make meaning of the person I was becoming,” she says. Through her book, and also her work as an educator, Avashia hopes to be a role model for others facing similar struggles, and to bring visibility to a diverse community. A Boston public school teacher since 2003, Avashia now lives in New England with her partner, Laura, and daughter Kahani.

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