What do you do when your family betrays you? What is being "good?" How do you learn to live by the truths of your own heart?


In this first novel by an award-winning poet, set in early 20th-century eastern Kentucky, sixteen year old Linney Stepp is sent to live with relatives in exchange for a boy cousin who can help her father work the farm. But living with the Chandlers – especially Aunt Hesty, grandmother and wisewoman – Linney gradually discovers how to decide for herself who she will be.


“In Linney Stepp, acclaimed poet Diane Gilliam gives us the story of a girl who breaks free from the force-field of her family to become herself.  When we meet Linney, she is about to be traded for her distant cousin Robbie so that he can help her dad on the farm and she can help his mother keep an eye on Aunt Hesty, who is prone to wandering and revelations. Both young people chafe at being swapped like tools. But before this rich and profound novel is over, what they have learned in exile—how to claim their own authority—will have transformed their lives. Set in Appalachian Kentucky in the early 1900s, and illuminated by dreams, myths, and fairy tales, Linney Stepp offers its readers transformation, too. By the novel’s end, Linney has learned how to say NO to what would harm her. She has grown the strength to ask what she needs to ask and say what she needs to say. Her story shows how. Don’t miss it!”

—George Ella Lyon,  Kentucky Poet Laureate 2015-2016 and author

 of With a Hammer for My Heart


ISBN 9781736525883

February 1, 2023


Kindle $9.99



Diane Gilliam

Linney Stepp