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Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks--Crystal Wilkinson in conversation with Tayari Jones

Event date: 
Thursday, February 1, 2024 - 7:30pm to 8:30pm

This event takes place in person at Charis and on crowdcast, Charis' virtual event platform. This event is free, but registration is required for virtual attendance. Click here to register to attend virtually. Please read the in-person event guidelines at the bottom of this page to be sure you can participate in the event.

Charis welcomes Crystal Wilkinson in conversation with Tayari Jones for a discussion of Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks, a lyrical culinary journey that explores the hidden legacy of Black Appalachians, through powerful storytelling alongside nearly forty comforting recipes, from the former poet laureate of Kentucky.

People are always surprised that Black people reside in the hills of Appalachia. Those not surprised that we were there, are surprised that we stayed.

Years ago, when O. Henry Prize-winning writer Crystal Wilkinson was baking a jam cake, she felt her late grandmother’s presence. She soon realized that she was not the only cook in her kitchen; there were her ancestors, too, stirring, measuring, and braising alongside her. These are her kitchen ghosts, five generations of Black women who settled in Appalachia and made a life, a legacy, and a cuisine.

An expert cook, Wilkinson shares nearly forty family recipes rooted deep in the past, full of flavor—delicious favorites including Corn Pudding, Chicken and Dumplings, Granny Christine’s Jam Cake, and Praisesong Biscuits, brought to vivid life through stunning photography. Together, Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts honors the mothers who came before, the land that provided for generations of her family, and the untold heritage of Black Appalachia.

As the keeper of her family’s stories and treasured dishes, Wilkinson shares her inheritance in Praisesong for the Kitchen GhostsShe found their stories in her apron pockets, floating inside the steam of hot mustard greens and tucked into the sweet scent of clove and cinnamon in her kitchen. Part memoir, part cookbook, Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts weaves those stories together with recipes, family photos, and a lyrical imagination to present a culinary portrait of a family that has lived and worked the earth of the mountains for over a century.

Crystal Wilkinson, a recent fellowship recipient of the Academy of American Poets, is the award-winning author of Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts, a culinary memoir, Perfect Blacka collection of poems,  and three works of fiction—The Birds of Opulence, Water Street and Blackberries, Blackberries. She is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry, an O. Henry Prize, a USA Artists Fellowship, and an Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. She has received recognition from the Yaddo Foundation, Hedgebrook, The Vermont Studio Center for the Arts, The Hermitage Foundation and others. Her short stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including most recently in  The Atlantic, The Kenyon ReviewSTORYAgniLiterary Journal, EmergenceOxford American and Southern Cultures.  She was Poet Laureate of Kentucky from 2021 to 2023. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Kentucky where she is a Bush-Holbrook Endowed Professor.

New York Times best-selling author Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, most recently An American Marriage. Published in 2018, An American Marriage is an Oprah’s Book Club Selection and also appeared on Barack Obama’s summer reading list as well as his year-end roundup. The novel was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize), Aspen Words Prize, and an NAACP Image Award. It has been published in two dozen countries. Jones, a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship, and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Her third novel, Silver Sparrow, was added to the NEA Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She is an Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing at Emory University.

This event is free and open to all people, especially to those who have no income or low income right now, but we encourage and appreciate a solidarity donation in support of the work of Charis Circle, our programming non-profit. Charis Circle's mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/CharisCircle?code=chariscirclepage

In-person event guidelines: 

  • All attendees must wear a face mask at all times inside the building 

  • We will begin seating people at 7:00 PM ET.

  • This event will be live-streamed via crowdcast. Click here to register to attend virtually.

  • As a reminder: If you are not feeling well, please do not come to the event.

  • If you have any questions regarding these guidelines or to request specific accessibility accommodations, please contact info@charisbooksandmore.com or call the store at 404-524-0304

If you would like to watch the virtual event with computer-generated captions, please watch in Google Chrome and enable captions. If you have other accessibility needs or if you are someone who has skills in making digital events more accessible please don't hesitate to reach out to info@chariscircle.org. We are actively learning the best practices for this technology and we welcome your feedback as we continue to connect across distances.

By attending our event you agree to our Code of Conduct: Our event seeks to provide a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof), class, or technology choices. We do not tolerate harassment in any form. Sexual language and imagery are not appropriate. Anyone violating these rules will be expelled from this event and all future events at the discretion of the organizers. Please report all harassment to info@chariscircle.org immediately.

Event address: 
A Charis Hybrid (in-person + virtual) Event
184 S. Candler Street
Decatur, GA 30030
Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks By Crystal Wilkinson Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780593236512
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Clarkson Potter - January 23rd, 2024

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A lyrical culinary journey that explores the hidden legacy of Black Appalachians, through powerful storytelling alongside nearly forty comforting recipes, from the former poet laureate of Kentucky.


Perfect Black By Crystal Wilkinson, Nikky Finney (Foreword by), Ronald W. Davis (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Crystal Wilkinson, Nikky Finney (Foreword by), Ronald W. Davis (Illustrator)
$19.95
ISBN: 9780813151168
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University Press of Kentucky - August 3rd, 2021

Crystal Wilkinson combines a deep love for her rural roots with a passion for language and storytelling in this compelling collection of poetry and prose about girlhood, racism, and political awakening, imbued with vivid imagery of growing up in Southern Appalachia.


The Birds of Opulence (Kentucky Voices) By Crystal Wilkinson Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9780813174990
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University Press of Kentucky - February 23rd, 2018

From the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of Blackberries, Blackberries and Water Street comes an astonishing new novel. A lyrical exploration of love and loss, 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.


An American Marriage (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel By Tayari Jones Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781616208684
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Books - February 5th, 2019

A NEW YORK TIMES AND WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK

A 2018 BEST OF THE YEAR SELECTION OF NPR  * TIME  * BUSTLE  * O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE  * THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS  * AMAZON.COM

OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB 2018 SELECTION

 
WINNER OF THE 2019 NAACP IMAGE AWARD FOR OUTSTANDI


Silver Sparrow By Tayari Jones Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781616201425
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Books - May 8th, 2012

From the New York Times Bestselling Author of An American Marriage

“A love story . . . Full of perverse wisdom and proud joy . . . Jones’s skill for wry understatement never wavers.”
O: The Oprah Magazine

Silver Sparrow will break your heart before you even know it.


The Untelling By Tayari Jones Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781538742129
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - August 15th, 2023

From the author of the Oprah Book Club Selection An American Marriage, here is an emotionally powerful novel that "succeeds mightily...truly a wonderful story" (Boston Globe).


Leaving Atlanta By Tayari Jones Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781538742105
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - March 14th, 2023

From the author of the Oprah's Book Club Selection An American Marriage, here is a beautifully evocative novel that proves why Tayari Jones is "one of the most important voices of her generation" (Essence).


Event Summary: 
A lyrical culinary journey that explores the hidden legacy of Black Appalachians, through powerful storytelling alongside nearly forty comforting recipes, from the former poet laureate of Kentucky.