Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Crystal Wilkinson, December 18, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Upcoming novel

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Partial Transcript: It's December 18th, 2015.

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson discusses her upcoming novel, which focuses on the importance of family history and nature in the lives of rural people.

Keywords: "Birds"; "Blackberries"; "The Birds of Opulence"; Ancestors; Birds; Characters; Construct; Control; Drafts; Excerpts; Female protagonists; Interviewers; Landscapes; Limitations; Metaphors; Narrators; Non-omniscient; Novels; Omniscient; Point of view; Reality; Reviews; Rural people; Scenes; Small towns; Time; Titles; Towns

Subjects: Authors.; Families.; Rural conditions; Writing

00:06:48 - Metaphor in her new book

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Partial Transcript: In that, in that way you're comparing girls and birds...

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson explains one of the key metaphors contained in her upcoming book, "The Birds of Opulence."

Keywords: "The Birds of Opulence"; Ancestors; Animals; Awareness; Birds; Characters; Expectations; Experiences; First drafts; Free; Girls; Ideas; Landscape; Language; Lexington (Ky.); Life; Metaphors; Narrators; Nature; Nests; Significant; Story; Unknown; Women; Work

Subjects: Authors.; Writing

00:13:41 - Truth in her upcoming novel

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you mentioned the, the father and, uh--Joe Brown and, and, um, and early on in the narrative, there's sort of a refrain...

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson assesses the degree of truthfulness in her novel in regards to autobiographical aspects of her own life that were incorporated into the new novel.

Keywords: "Spiritual reclamation"; "Spiritual truths"; "The Birds of Opulence"; Ancestors; Bulldozers; Characters; City; Coping; Country; Events; Family history; Fathers; Grandchildren; Grandparents; Homage; Homeplace; Loss; Magic; Mental illness; Mental institutions; Mothers; Mythology; Novels; People; Place; Ponds; Power; Quotes; Reality; Remembering; Resonance; Scene; Story; Truth

Subjects: Authors.; Families.; Genealogy; Writing

00:19:51 - Sense of place in her work / loss of homeplace

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Partial Transcript: Um, in our last interview you talked about um, about how fear of losing a place motivated your writing.

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson discusses the role of her homeplace in her writing and how this setting impacts and permeates all of her work, regardless of subject matter. The effects of the loss of one's homeplace are also considered.

Keywords: Aging; Birds; Casey County (Ky.); Characters; Cities; Country; Ernest Gaines; Family; Grandmothers; Heritage; History; Home; Homeplace; Ideas; Indian Creek (Ky.); Infrastructure; Kentucky; Land; Literary imagination; Loss; Meaning; Money; Nature; Novels; Place; Plantations; Pond; Retirement; Students; Towns; Trees; Truth; Uncles; Work; World

Subjects: African American farmers; Authors.; Families.; Family farms; Farmers; Place attachment; Rural conditions; Writing

00:25:59 - Preservation of rural land / mental health

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Partial Transcript: D, do you find yourself preoccupied at all with, with issues of how to keep rural landscapes and rural economies vital and vibrant and diverse and--

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson elaborates upon her desire to preserve rural lands and keep them within the original land-owning families. Wilkinson also talks of her own struggle to do this while living in a relatively urban environment. Additionally, Wilkinson discusses her mother's initial struggles with mental illness.

Keywords: "Letting go"; "Urban farming"; Balance; Connection; Connections; Country; Eastern State Hospital; Gardner; Grandchildren; Grounds; Homeplace; Interest; Interviews; Kate Black; Land; Landscape; Lexington (Ky.); Lost battles; Mothers; Nature; Owners; Painful; Personal; Pictures; Pride; Projects; Protection; Recognition; Records; Revitalization; Rural landscape; Stories; Tests

Subjects: African American farmers; African Americans; Families.; Farmers; Identity (Psychology); Land use, Rural--Kentucky; Mental health; Mental illness; Rural conditions; Writing

00:34:28 - Feminism

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned how when you went off to Eastern Kentucky University for college...

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson chronicles her progression into the feminist movement, focusing on when she first started to become involved with the movement at university.

Keywords: Babies; Children; Classes; Colleges; Community; Defiance; Devastated; Family; Fathers; Midterms; Naïveté; People; Sons; Upset; Women Writers Conference; Women's freedom; Words

Subjects: Children; Education; Feminism; Marriage

00:43:07 - Affrilachian Poets

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Partial Transcript: You did a series of interviews with, um, Betsy Brinson.

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson talks about a literary group she helped to establish called the Affrilachian Poets, in which all of the members share common racial and cultural identities.

Keywords: Accents; Affrilachian Poets; Berea College; Colleges; Conversation; Cornrows; Experiences; Girls; Grandmothers; Hunting; Interviews; Life; Men; Mothers; Nikky Finney; Place; Reading; Rural life; Shame; Stories; Storytelling; Students; Teaching; Validation; Woods; Writers

Subjects: African American authors.; African Americans; Authors.; Country life; Identity (Psychology); Rural conditions; Writing

00:49:12 - Students and rural identity

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Partial Transcript: What's interesting is, um, now that I'm teaching at Berea...

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson shares her experiences of students that she has had that were from rural backgrounds and their attitudes towards this identity.

Keywords: Approaches; Backwardness; Berea College; Character; Conversations; Early life; Place; Protective; Science fiction; Self; Students; Worldliness

Subjects: Rural conditions; Stereotypes (Social psychology); Teaching; Writing

00:52:32 - Role of Wilkinson's bookstore in the community

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Partial Transcript: Um, I wanted, I wanted to ask a little bit about the--in terms of just talking about community, about the role of the bookstore the Wild Fig...

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson articulates the role of her bookstore in the community and in the city of Lexington in general.

Keywords: Audiences; Book discussions; Buildings; Communities; Community bookstores; Community involvement; Discussion; Diversity; Educational; Entertaining; Events; Gayl Jones; Harlem Renaissance; Inventory; James Baldwin; Kate Black; Law professors; Leases; Local authors; Melynda Price; Niche markets; Paris (France); Place; Privacy; Readings; Renovations; Reputations; Salons; Space; Successful; Sustainability; Topics; Understanding; Vision; Wild Fig Books & Coffee

Subjects: African American business enterprises; Bookstores; Lexington (Ky.); Racism; Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership

00:59:24 - Naming her bookstore

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Partial Transcript: But I wondered if you--on that--along those lines, if you would just reflect on how you chose to name the bookstore after her poem?

Segment Synopsis: Wilkinson reveals the inspiration behind the name of her bookstore (called Wild Fig Books & Coffee) and also explains why she chose this name in particular.

Keywords: "Wild figs in secret places"; Admiration; African American women writers; Beautiful; Cafes; Characters; Child abuse; Connections; Conversations; Effects; Feminism; Fiction; Gayl Jones; Grammar; Homosexuality; Influences; Issues; Kentucky; Language; Literature; Lyricism; Models; Narrators; Novels; People; Permission; Place; Poems; Poets; Pressure; Private; Proud; Self; Selling; Slang; Smoothies (Beverages); Society; Stories; Story; Storytelling; Students; Thoughts; Truthful; Uncomfortable; Voice; Wild Fig Books & Coffee; Women; Woodford County (Ky.); Writers

Subjects: African American business enterprises; Authors.; Bookstores; Lexington (Ky.); Rural conditions; Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership; Writing