Kentucky Humanities is pleased to announce the 2024 Kentucky Reads selection is Scissors, Paper, Rock, by Fenton Johnson. 

About the book:

Along with his siblings, Raphael Hardin left his childhood home in rural Kentucky. Grappling with an AIDS diagnosis, he returns to care for his dying father. Told from the perspectives of Raphael, his family, and their lifelong neighbor, Fenton Johnson's landmark novel reveals the blood struggles and binding loves of a broken family made whole.
"Memory, love, grief, death and desire: these are the stuff of Fenton Johnson's . . . powerfully moving novel."
 ~New York Times Book Review
"The emotional power of Scissors, Paper, Rock resides on a plot of land in Kentucky . . . . [It] chronicles the courtships, the births, the deaths and the agonizing disappointment of two generations of the Hardins of Strang Knob. . . . Scissors, Paper, Rock is a seductive rumination on the ways that memory can torment or soothe, and sometimes do both at the same time."
~San Francisco Chronicle
"Read the eleven brief pieces of this brilliant novel and you'll never again hear its title phrase without feeling chills . . . . Emothional jolts lurk on every page. . . . Every few pages you'll pause, realizing you've just read one of the best paragraphs you've ever come across. Yes, the book's about dying, but in the same way that birthday parties are about growing old."
~Entertainment Weekly
"I finished Scissors, Paper, Rock in an unstoppable burst of enthralled reading last night. It is a wonderful book."
~Richard Howard, poet and professor of creative writing, Columbia University

About the author:


Fenton Johnson is the author of At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life, a New York Times Editors’ Pick. He is author of the novels The Man Who Loved Birds; Scissors, Paper, Rock; and Crossing the River. In nonfiction, Johnson has published Geography of the Heart: A Memoir and Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks. Geography received the American Library Association and Lambda Literary Awards for best LGBT Creative Nonfiction, while Keeping Faith received a Lambda Literary and Kentucky Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction. His collection Everywhere Home: A Life in Essays (2017) touches on topics as diverse as San Francisco in the AIDS epidemic to spirituality to a youthful encounter with Ike and Tina Turner. A regular contributor to Harper’s Magazine, Johnson has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts in both fiction and nonfiction and has been featured on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air. He has written the narrations and served as associate producer on several award-winning, internationally screened documentaries, among them Stranger with a Camera and La Ofrenda:  Days of the Dead. He has taught in the graduate programs of Columbia University, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, and San Francisco State University. At present he is emeritus professor at the University of Arizona and teaches writing workshops across the nation. He is currently writing the histories of his enslaved and slave-owning Kentucky ancestors as well as that of his great-grandfather, a Union soldier.


Booking fee:

The booking fee for your organization is only $50. Kentucky Humanities will supplement the remaining cost of the program. Each host organization will be provided with 15 copies of Scissors, Paper, Rock to share among participating members and publicity materials to promote your discussion. Kentucky Humanities will pay an honorarium to the discussion leader (you choose) below to lead your book discussion. Or you can choose to find your own book discussion leader and your organization will pay that leader or he/she will donate his/her time to serve as a discussion leader.
Any nonprofit organization in Kentucky can host this program, including libraries, historical societies, churches, prisons, veterans’ groups, museums, book clubs, etc. These programs will be awarded on a first-come first-served basis and must take place between January 1, 2024 and December 31, 2024.
How to host book discussion:
  1. Decide your organization would like to host a book discussion of Scissors, Paper, Rock.
  2. Select who will serve as your scholar to lead a discussion about the book and relevant topics. (see list below)
  3. Contact the scholar and set a date, time, and location for your group discussion and review any special arrangements.
  4. Book the program using the online booking form at least six weeks in advance, beginning December 1, 2023, and pay the $50 booking fee.
  5. Kentucky Humanities will send you an agreement to sign and return.
  6. Kentucky Humanities will also send an electronic social media graphic, flyer, bookmarks, and 15 copies of Scissors, Paper, Rock to promote your event.
  7. Publicize your book discussion once it has been approved using the supplied materials.
  8. Host your discussion and have participants complete the provided evaluation forms.
  9. Complete the program coordinator's report.
  10. Return evaluation forms to Kentucky Humanities within two weeks of your program taking place.

Discussion Guide:

Click here to download a copy of the discussion guide for Scissors, Paper, Rock

Scholars available to lead discussions for your group:

  1. Constance Alexander,, (270) 293-7920, Murray, KY. Constance Alexander is a published poet, playwright, essayist, and civic journalist in Murray.  She has received numerous  grants and awards for her creative work, including support from the Kentucky Arts Council, Kentucky Foundation for Women, Ragdale Foundation, Kentucky Press Association, the Writers Exchange of Poets & Writers, Inc. among others. With an MA is in the humanities, an MBA in management, and an MFA in fiction, she is a skilled facilitator.
  2. Diane Calhoun-French,, (502) 500-2176, Louisville, KY. Diane Calhoun-French is a retired Provost at Jefferson County Community & Technical College. She served as a member of the Kentucky Humanities Speakers Bureau for many years with talks such as Popular Fiction for Women, A Cultural History of Paper Dolls, Tea for Two, Reading in the Age of the Kindle, and others.
  3. Erin Chandler,, (859) 940-2087, Versailles, KY. Erin Chandler's memoir, June Bug Versus Hurricane was published in 2018. Her original play of the same name was produced at the Lost Studio in Los Angeles in 2009. Cinderella Sweeping Up, a collection of essays was released in June 2019. The essays were originally published in the Woodford Sun where she writes a weekly column. Erin holds an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and Master's in theatre from the University of Kentucky. She teaches playwrighting and screenwriting at the Carnegie Center in Lexington, KY, and is hard at work on a new novel, Nervous Blood. Erin was on the roster for the 2019-2020 Kentucky Humanities Speakers Bureau.
  4. Elizabeth Glass,, (502) 552-0088, Louisville, KY. Elizabeth Glass earned her PhD in the humanities from the University of Louisville. She is a scholar, creative writer, and teacher. She has received an Emerging Artist Award in Nonfiction from the Kentucky Arts Council and a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.
  5. Donna Eastham,, (606) 425-3764, Somerset, KY. Donna Eastham is originally from Ohio and has been in the state of Kentucky since 1982. Donna has taught at Eastern Kentucky University and currently teaches at Somerset Community College in the IECE program.
  6. Ann C. Hall,, (614) 404-2579, Louisville, KY. Ann C. Hall is a Professor of Comparative Humanities at the University of Louisville. She is the co-editor of a collection called Dramatic Apparitions: Theatrical Ghosts with Alan Nadel from the University of Kentucky. The collection examines the way ghosts haunt theatres in different eras, cultures, and genres. Other publications include A Kind of Alaska: Women in the Plays of O’Neill, Pinter, and Shepard and Phantom Variations: The Adaptations of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, 1925-present. She is passionate about the humanities, film, the arts, teaching, and performance. She teaches courses in film, modern drama, and interdisciplinary humanities.
  7. Jacqueline Hamilton,, (859) 935-5153, Winchester, KY. Jacqueline Hamilton teaches English and literature at Eastern Kentucky University. Her research work focuses on how to build effective listening skills in people of all ages. She studied in London, England, on a Rotary Foundation fellowship in journalism, and received a Jesse Stuart fellowship during graduate school. Hamilton portrays Alice Lloyd and Sue Grafton for Kentucky Chautauqua. She also started and continues to direct a non-profit called Why We Write whose mission is to give students the mindset of writing as “workable fun."

  8. Alana Scott,, (606) 783-2540, Morehead, KY. Alana Scott is an Associate Professor of History in the Department of History, Philosophy, Politics, Global Studies & Legal Studies (School of Humanities & Social Sciences) at Morehead State University. She holds a PhD in history from Florida State University. She has served as a Prime Time Family Reading discussion leader for many years.

  9. Richard Taylor,, (502) 352-3516, Frankfort, KY. Richard Taylor is retired from teaching at Transylvania University and former Poet Laureate of Kentucky. Taylor has written more than a dozen books including Bull's Hell, a collection of poems on the life of Cassius M. Clay, and Snow Falling on Water: New and Selected Poems. His book, Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape, was awarded the Thomas D. Clark Medallion. He lives near the banks of the Elkhorn outside of Frankfort.
  10. Jayne Moore Waldrop,, (859) 494-8262, Cadiz, KY, Jayne Moore Waldrop is the author of Drowned Town (University Press of Kentucky), a 2022 Great Group Reads selection by the Women's National Book Association and 2021 INDIES silver winner for fiction. Her other books are Retracing My Steps, a finalist in the New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition, Pandemic Lent: A Season in Poetry, both from Finishing Line Press; A Journey in Color: The Art of Ellis Wilson, and She Remembered It All: The Memory Paintings of Helen LaFrance (2024), both from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.
  11. Marianne Worthington,, (606) 521-7115, Williamsburg, KY.  Marianne Worthington is a poet, editor, and educator living in southeastern Kentucky. She co-founded the online literary magazine Still: The Journal in 2009 and serves as its poetry editor. She has been a discussion leader for Kentucky Reads since 2020.
  12. John "Spike" Wright,, (859) 567-5555, Warsaw, KY.  Most people know John Wright by his nickname, "Spike". He is a lifelong resident of Gallatin County and has led discussions for Kentucky Reads including All the King's Men, Hannah Coulter, and The Birds of Opulence. He has served as a Prime Time Family Reading discussion leader. A graduate of Transylvania University and the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at NKU, Spike has served as the Gallatin County Attorney since 2003.

Booking form:

Once you have contacted the discussion leader and made your book discussion plans, please complete the booking form below and submit online.