07 Jan

Kentucky Humanities announces 2021 Kentucky Reads

Kentucky Humanities announces 2021 Kentucky Reads
Statewide literacy initiative centers on The Birds of Opulence by Kentucky’s Crystal Wilkinson


LEXINGTON, Ky. (December 2, 2021) – Kentucky Humanities has selected Crystal Wilkinson’s The Birds of Opulence for its 2021 Kentucky Reads. The novel will be at the center of statewide conversations on the dynamics of family and community, the strength of women, and the stigmas surrounding mental illness.


Kentucky Reads will offer 25 scholar-led discussions of The Birds of Opulence to community organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Kentucky Humanities has accumulated an impressive group of scholars who will lead engaging, thought-provoking discussion about the themes of the book.


Any non-profit organization in Kentucky can host a discussion of The Birds of Opulence for a booking fee of $50 and each host organization will be provided with 15 copies of the novel to share among participating members. Publicity materials to promote the discussion will also be provided. Host organizations will determine if their scheduled discussion will be held in-person or virtually. A list of scholars and the booking form can be found at


“Crystal Wilkinson’s beautiful and timely novel will encourage important conversations throughout the state that help us look at what it means to be from a place and to focus us all on seeing our commonalities rather than focusing on what separates us,” said Bill Goodman, Kentucky Humanities Executive Director.


Winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence, The Birds of Opulence centers on several generations of women in a bucolic southern black township as they live with and sometimes surrender to madness. Crystal Wilkinson offers up Opulence and its people in lush, poetic detail. It is a world of magic, conjuring, signs, and spells, but also of harsh realities that only love—and love that’s handed down—can conquer. At once tragic and hopeful, this captivating novel is a story about another time, rendered for our own.

 The Birds of Opulence is published by the University Press of Kentucky.


Crystal Wilkinson is the award-winning author of The Birds of Opulence, Water Street, and Blackberries, Blackberries. Nominated for both the Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, she has received recognition from The Kentucky Foundation for Women, The Kentucky Arts Council, The Mary Anderson Center for the Arts, The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and is a recipient of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Literature. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in the Oxford American and Southern Cultures.  She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky where she is Associate Professor of English in the MFA Creative Writing Program.


Kentucky Humanities’ first edition of Kentucky Reads, in 2018, featured Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel: All the King’s Men to guide statewide conversations on contemporary populism, political discourse, and their relationship to journalism. In 2020, Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter was chosen