LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 6, 2022) — The University of Kentucky is celebrating two recipients of the Weatherford Prizes which were announced at the 45th Annual Conference of the Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) held March 17-20 at West Virginia University.
“The Girl Singer”, by Marianne Worthington, was published by University Press of Kentucky and won the poetry category. “The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Lives in Appalachian Coal Towns” (WVU Press), written by British alumnus William H. Turner, won the award in the non-fiction category.
Crystal Wilkinson, an associate professor of English in the UK, was a finalist in the poetry category for her book “Perfect Black”. Former British English teacher George Ella Lyon was also a poetry finalist for her book ‘Back to the Light’. Both titles are published by University Press of Kentucky.
The Weatherford Awards are presented annually by Berea College and the ASA. The awards recognize books that “best illuminate the unique challenges, personalities, and qualities of southern Appalachia.” Fiction, non-fiction and poetry are the three recognized categories, each receiving a $500 prize. Over 40 books were nominated this year.
“The Singer” by Marianne Worthington
“The Girl Singer” collects poems on feminism, Appalachian culture and country music. It’s part family, part music, and part nature walk. Worthington’s watchful eye and heart are reflected in the striking and painful images she paints in the poems. Each poem, whether it describes a connection to Appalachian wildlife, narrates the lyrics of a classic country tune, reflects on the speaker’s lineage, or gives voice to famous musical figures of the past, strikes a powerful chord.
Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, Worthington moved to southeastern Kentucky in 1990. She teaches communication studies and media writing at Berea College and often teaches poetry and non-fiction writing classes for workshops and conferences. She received the AI Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Appalachian Book of the Year Award for her book “Larger Bodies Than Mine.” In 2009, she also co-founded “Still: The Journal”, an online literary magazine that publishes work related to the Appalachian region.
“The University Press of Kentucky is proud to be the publisher of ‘The Girl Singer,’ which is a gripping and beautiful collection of poetry,” said Brooke Raby, director of sales and marketing at University Press of Kentucky. “We are also extremely pleased that Crystal Wilkinson and George Ella Lyon – two incredibly accomplished and renowned poets – have been recognized for their significant works on Appalachia.”
“The Harlan Renaissance: Stories of Black Lives in Appalachian Coal Towns” by William H. Turner
“The Harlan Renaissance” is an intimate memory of kinship and community in the mining towns of Eastern Kentucky. Turner reconstructs black life in company towns in and around Harlan County during the final years of the postwar coal boom, which turned into a lasting collapse as the children of black miners, such as the author, were leaving the region in search of better opportunities.
Turner was born in Lynch, Kentucky, in Harlan County. He earned a BA in Sociology from the UK and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. He also completed Howard University’s Foreign Affairs Scholars Program and did postdoctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University. He was also Vice President of Multicultural Affairs in the UK. The Appalachian Studies Association honored him for a lifetime of service to the region and he was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2020 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of North Carolina in Ashville. In 2021 he was inducted into the UK College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame.
Turner has spent most of her career studying and working to help marginalized communities create opportunity in the world without abandoning their cultural ties. He produced groundbreaking research on African-American communities in Appalachia. He has also studied economic systems and social structures in the urban South and the burgeoning Latin American communities in the Southwest. He has co-edited the textbook “Blacks in Appalachia” and topical essays on Black Appalachia in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture and the Encyclopedia of Appalachia.
“I attribute much of this recognition to the longstanding relationships I have been fortunate to have with other students, friends, teachers, staff and fellow administrators I have come to know over the course of the long period of my affiliation with the University of Kentucky,” Turner mentioned.
History of Weatherford Awards
The Weatherford Awards were established in 1970 to commemorate the life and accomplishments of WD Weatherford Sr., a pioneer and leader in Appalachian development, youth work and race relations. Until 2002, only one book was awarded each year. From 2003 to 2009, one prize was awarded for non-fiction and one for a work of fiction or poetry. In 2010, the Poetry Prize was established to honor the life and work of Grace Toney Edwards, former director of the Appalachian Center for Area Studies at Radford University.