by Rosie Carpenter

Imagine a tree, a bird in the tree, the hills, the creek, a possum, the dog chasing the possum. Imagine yourself a woman who gathers stories in her apron.”

In this opening sentence from her novel, The Birds of Opulence, Crystal Wilkinson paints a scenic portrayal of the fictional town, Opulence, Kentucky. In this novel, we follow the stories of the Goode-Brown Family and their struggle with battling mental illness across multiple generations of women. Not only does Wilkinson’s novel explore these tough issues, it also highlights African American culture within this small, rural town of Kentucky; a topic rarely examined in today’s literature.

Wilkinson is no stranger to tackling hard issues in her writing. As a member of the Affrilachian poets, she writes to defy the persistent stereotypes of a racially homogenized rural region. This theme has particularly been touched on in Wilkinson’s award-winning book, Blackberries, Blackberries, a collection of enchanting stories of her childhood and upbringing on her grandparent’s farm in Indian Creek, Kentucky. Wilkinson has received various awards and fellowships, most recently the 10th Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, the Judy Gaines Young Prize for Fiction and the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Fiction for The Birds of Opulence.

Beyond being an award-winning author, Wilkinson is also Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College and teaches in the Spalding low residency MFA in Creative Writing Program. Wilkinson and her partner, Ron Davis, own Wild Fig Books & Coffee, located on North Limestone in Lexington, Kentucky. This literary boutique not only acts as a bookstore and coffee shop, but also as a diverse community center offering events, workshops and salons.


Affrilachian Writer Crystal Wilkinson will be sharing her work in the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s First Thursday Literary Salon Series this Thursday, December 7, 7-9 pm at Lydia’s on Ludlow, 329 Ludlow Avenue in Clifton. Come early for a good seat and to order locally-sourced, organic food, coffee, tea and craft cocktails at Lydia’s on Ludlow.

Founded in 2016, the Salon Series brings urban Appalachian literary artists to the attention of our community, and uses their work as a springboard for engagement around Appalachian culture and identity. The focus of the 2017/18 Salon series is “Exploring the Boundaries of Appalachian Experiences,” in preparation for the upcoming Appalachian Studies Conference in Cincinnati in April, “Re-stitching the Seams: Appalachia Beyond Its Borders.” The Series is funded in part by ArtsWave. For more information about the Salon Series and other Urban Appalachian Community Coalition Cultural Programs, click here.

Blog by Rosie Carpenter

Rosie Carpenter serves as UACC’s new Volunteer Coordinator, through the AmeriCorps Program. Rosie has a BA in Anthropology with certificates in Historic Preservation and Heritage Studies. Since graduating in May 2015, her career path has focused on building community through the preservation of the built environment; she welcomes this new opportunity to build community through personal relationships at a grassroots level. To contact Rosie about UACC volunteer opportunities, email her at [email protected].

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