Crystal Wilkinson, the Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College in Kentucky, has won the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence presented by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. The award recognizes outstanding work by an African American fiction writer.
Wilkinson was honored for her novel Birds of Opulence (University of Kentucky Press, 2016). According to the prize committee, “Birds of Opulence follows several generations of women in the Goode-Brown family in the fictional Southern Black township of Opulence. The family is plagued by mental illness and illegitimacy, as well as the accompanying embarrassment. As younger generations watch their mothers and grandmothers pass on, they also fear going mad and must fight to survive.”
A native of Hamilton, Ohio, Wilkerson grew up on her grandparents’ farm in Indian Creek, Kentucky. She is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, where she majored in journalism. Wilkerson holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Spaulding University in Louisville, Kentucky.
Before coming to Berea College in 2014, Wilkerson taught at Eastern Kentucky University, Indiana University in Bloomington, and Morehead State University in Kentucky. She previously published the short story collections Blackberries, Blackberries (Lake Union Publishing, 2011) and Water Street (Lake Union Publishing, 2011).