Winner of the 2002 CHAFFIN LITERARY AWARD
An enchanting, haunting collection of stories by Crystal Wilkinson, a self-described Black, country girl and poet from rural Kentucky. The stories explore the joys and pain of the women of "Affrilachia", and will touch the reader profoundly.
"I grew up on a farm in Indian Creek, Kentucky during the seventies. I swam in creeks and roamed the knobs and hills. We had an outhouse and no inside running water. Our house was heated by coal and wood-burning stoves and we lived so far back in the woods that we could get only one television station. But it was a place of beauty - trees, green grass and blue sky as far as you could see. I am country. Being country is as much a part of me as my full lips, wide hips, dreadlocks and high cheek bones. There are many Black country folks who have lived and are living in small towns, up hollers and across knobs. They are all over the South—scattered like milk thistle seeds in the wind. The stories in this book are centered in these places.” - CRYSTAL E. WILKINSON
About the Author
Crystal Wilkinson is the author of two prize-winning works of fiction. She grew up in rural Kentucky and is a recipient of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature. Water Street was a finalist for the Orange Prize and the Zora Neal Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award in Fiction. Her first collection, Blackberries, Blackberries was published by the Toby Press in 2000 to enthusiastic reviews in the regional and national press. She is currently a faculty member of Spalding University's MFA in Writing Program in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Critics Praise:
Wilkinson's “forte throughout is the immediacy and power with which she captures raw emotion. The reader easily can feel the rage of an abused wife as well as the inconsolable grief of a woman praying to die. The love Wilkinson's women have for their children is astonishingly fierce. Wilkinson's beloved country becomes a character, too, in this collection: the land, mountains, farm animals, outhouses. Leaping from the page are the sights and sounds of the woods, the smell of eggs sizzling in ham drippings, the creaks of rickety steps in dilapidated old houses. Just as vivid are her small Kentucky towns nice homes, clean streets, the corner diner. Wherever they are set, however, these tales work the magic Wilkinson intended.”
THE ATLANTA TRIBUNE
“First-time author Wilkinson makes a stunning debut with this lyrical collection of short stories set in the rural outback of the South. Written with an extraordinary grasp of descriptive prose, the author transports readers to the humid beauty of the back country and the people who inhabit the area. Proud - yet vulnerable - women waiting for a little bit of happiness to find them, women looking back at their lives with fondness and just a tinge of regret ...all of these characters come alive under Wilkinson's sure hand. The joy one character feels after finally discovering love after a series of heartbreaks is almost palpable.”
“Crystal Wilkinson has written a lovely, heart wrenching and terribly wise book. These Kentucky women become with each page turned your sister, your mama, your friend. These tales of women in love, lost and found, is a voice from the heartland you won't be able to forget.”
“Crystal Wilkinson's characters live and breathe. They walk, talk and leap off the page into your lap and living rooms from their front porch. Her honest and sensual narrative pulls the reader in like a lover sharing their most intimate secrets. Sometimes whispering, often times singing, but always clear and evocative. Her Affrilacian tenor rings throughout this work. Let out the sleeper sofa. Throw in more potatoes to stretch the soup. Her characters are about to move in.”
FRANK X. WALKER author of Affrilachia
“Enter these winding womanish worlds with a normal curious tickle in your throat and exit singing ancient country arias. The longings of Black women have always been sharp enough to shatter glass and carmine enough to birth never ending song. This is crystallized desire - to have and to hold from this day forward. Cherish the vows your eyes will make as the words entreat you never to leave.”
NIKKY FINNEY, Poet
“Wilkinson is a storyteller in the tradition of Southerners such as Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers. And for the most part, she joins that tradition confidently. Wilkinson understands what makes our language so beautiful. She understands its rhythm, interweaving words to create wide-ranging scales of sound, sometimes as soothing as rain showers, sometimes as fierce as a jackhammer… Through the diversity of her characters and the richness of her language, Wilkinson has taught me a lot. Her made-up characters have made me more aware of my soul.”