Crystal E. Wilkinson, a Lexington author whose literary voice centers on African American culture in Appalachia, will be featured Friday during the Union College Redbud Festival.

Wilkinson will appear during the festival at 2 p.m., hosting a reading in the Rector Little Theatre. She will also be available to meet with interested fans following the reading, offering an opportunity to further discuss her literature.

Wilkinson is the author of two prize-winning works of fiction – “Blackberries, Blackberries,” published in 2000, and “Water Street,” published in 2005. “Blackberries, Blackberries” is an “enchanting and haunting” collection of stories that “explore the joys and pains of the women of Affrilachia.” The book is the 2002 winner of the Chaffin Literary Award.

“Water Street” is a collection of short stories that examines the secret lives of neighbors and friends who live on Water Street in a small town in rural Kentucky. The book’s synopsis says everyone has two stories to tell, “one story that the light of day shines on and the other that only lives in the pitch black of night.” It was nominated for the 2003 Orange Prize for Fiction and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Wilkinson’s work “Water Street” was recently featured on the campus of Union College as part of a book discussion series sponsored by the Union College Department of English and the Kentucky Humanities Council.

In addition to these works, Wilkinson is also a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of African American poets from Appalachia who share an identity and a longing to explore, through literature, the multi-cultural influence of the Appalachian region. Formed in 1991, the group is led by Frank X Walker, the author who coined the term “Affrilachia” as a representation of the African American influence on the Appalachian region.

According to the group’s website, http://www.theaffrilachianpoets.com, “through their writing and the very existence of their enclave, the Affrilachian Poets continue to reveal relationships that link identity to familial roots, socio-economic stratification and cultural influence, and an inherent connection to the land.”

Wilkinson currently teaches in and directs the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Morehead State University.

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