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Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture With Crystal Wilkinson to be Featured Tuesday

Crystal Wilkinson

WHEELING — The Ohio County Public Library’s next weekly Lunch With Books Live Stream will feature the Ann Thomas Memorial Lecture with author Crystal Wilkinson.

The livestream will take place beginning at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Wilkinson is the award-winning author of “The Birds of Opulence,” winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence; “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 in Creative Writing Program.

This program will be available to watch live on Facebook Live, on YouTube and on the Ohio County Public Library website’s LWB Live Stream page. Log into your Facebook or YouTube account during the program to leave questions for Wilkinson in the comments box, and she will answer during the live broadcast.

This project is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This presentation will be in honor of pioneering Wheeling figure Ann Thomas. As a child, Thomas migrated with her mother to Wheeling from North Carolina. She grew up during Wheeling’s Jim Crow era and became one of the first African American students to leave segregated Lincoln School for Wheeling High School after Brown vs. Board of Education was decided in 1954. She thereafter became Wheeling’s first African American Nurse. Her husband, Clyde, was a great football player for the semi-pro Wheeling Ironmen and the only African American elected to Wheeling City Council in the modern era.

Thomas was a wonderful, optimistic, courageous and genuinely kind woman, and a dedicated patron of the library and library programs. After she passed on Feb. 22, 2019, having bravely battled cancer and endured suffering for many years, the library created an annual memorial lecture series at the library in her honor.

The featured book for the program will be Wilkinson’s 2016 book, “The Birds of Opulence.” 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. The Goode-Brown family, led by matriarch and pillar of the community Minnie Mae, is plagued by old secrets and embarrassment over mental illness and illegitimacy. Meanwhile, single mother Francine Clark is haunted by her dead, lightning-struck husband and forced to fight against both the moral judgment of the community and her own rebellious daughter, Mona. The residents of Opulence struggle with vexing relationships to the land, to one another, and to their own sexuality. As the members of the youngest generation watch their mothers and grandmothers pass away, they live with the fear of going mad themselves and must fight to survive.

Lunch With Books is the Ohio County Public Library’s flagship program for adult patrons. These lunchtime programs feature authors, poets, musicians, historians and more every Tuesday at noon. Visitors are welcome to bring a lunch (for the time being — to your computer), and feed your brain.

Ann Thomas

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