Books

Author Crystal Wilkinson among 5 Kentuckians named Southerners of the Year

Writers Crystal Wilkinson and Ronald Davis reopened their Wild Fig Books in a renovated turn-of-the-century house on North Limestone last fall. Wilkinson has been named one of Southern Living magazine’s Southerners of the Year.
Writers Crystal Wilkinson and Ronald Davis reopened their Wild Fig Books in a renovated turn-of-the-century house on North Limestone last fall. Wilkinson has been named one of Southern Living magazine’s Southerners of the Year.

Lexington author and bookstore owner Crystal Wilkinson is one of five Kentuckians who have been named to Southern Living magazine’s list of Southerners of the Year.

Wilkinson, whose most recent book is the novel “Birds of Opulence,” co-owns Wild Fig Books on North Limestone with her partner Ron Davis. “Birds of Opulence” was recently named winner of the Gaines Award, a $10,000 prize awarded annually by Baton Rouge Area Foundation donors to recognize outstanding work from rising black fiction writers.

Southern Living commended Wilkinson for the Wild Fig becoming “something of a town hall where just as many discussions are had over a new bestseller as about gentrification, race relations and city issues. ... She is helping her community come together to create understanding and trust in a changing neighborhood.”

In a telephone interview, Wilkinson said that while the town hall discussions don’t help the book shop’s bottom line, they are valuable because they “certainly enrich our hearts.”

Wilkinson said that Wild Fig also values collaborations with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, blacks in the LGTBQ community and local writers and politicians.

How does Wilkinson juggle it all?

“It helps to have a good partner in Ron, but I am there a lot, and it’s truly a juggle and a struggle,” Wilkinson said. “But I manage to fit it all in and get in a few hours of self-care now and then.”

Jenny Williams of Hazard was also cited by the magazine, as were Louisville residents Bobby Benjamin, Patrick Hallahan and Jon Salomon.

Williams, an English professor at Hazard Community and Technical College, was cited for her food advocacy, starting community gardens around town and leading a program to get kids active and give them exposure to natural settings.

Benjamin, Hallahan and Salomon were commended for creating “one of Louisville’s and the South’s best new restaurants, Butchertown Grocery,” as well as starting a philanthropic arm known as Butchertown Social Aid and Pleasure Club. The organization uses the restaurant as a fund-raising site for charities across Kentucky as well as connecting philanthropists, residents and local business owners to preserve the Butchertown neighborhood.

Hallahan is the drummer for My Morning Jacket, Benjamin a chef and Salomon an attorney. Benjamin and Salomon live in Butchertown.

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman.

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