Bookstore to host Walker book launch; New picture book exalts Affrilachian culture and history
Published 11:05 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Plaid Elephant Books in Danville will host a book launch on Saturday, February 11th from 11am to 1pm to celebrate the release of “A Is for Affrilachia” by Frank X Walker (February 2023, University Press of Kentucky).
The people and places in Appalachia make it a rich, multifaceted, and diverse region. When author Frank X Walker first coined the phrase “Affrilachia,” he wanted to ensure that the voices, and accomplishments of African Americans in that region were recognized and exalted. A Is for Affrilachia not only brings awareness of notable African Americans from this region, but this inspired children’s alphabet book is also an exuberant celebration of the people, physical spaces, and historical events that may not be as well known in mainstream educational structures.
Frank X Walker, the first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate, is an artist, writer, and educator who has published eleven collections of poetry, including Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, Updated Edition; Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems; and Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, which was awarded an NAACP Image Award and the Black Caucus American Library Association Honor Award. The recipient of the 35th Annual Lillian Smith Book Award and the Thomas D. Clark Award for Literary Excellence, he is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.
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Born and raised in Danville, Walker still retains strong ties to the region. Each year, the Danville Independent School District hosts the “Frank X Walker Literary Festival” to celebrate Professor Walker’s work and the work of other artists and authors of color. The Literary Festival includes poetry readings, writing workshops, and a poetry contest for students in kindergarten through college.
Walker says he is pleased to launch his new book in his hometown. “It feels right to start my children’s book tour in the place I spent my own childhood,” says Walker. “I love this book so much. I hope young readers and the young reader in all of us like it too.”
Illustrated by acclaimed artist upfromsumdirt, every image in A Is for Affrilachia exudes vibrancy, beauty, and whimsy as it depicts an alphabetized word alongside each corresponding letter. Featured are a range of musicians, artists, and activists, as well as mountain ranges, literary works, and coal mining implements. Famous names, such as playwright August Wilson, writer Nikki Giovanni, actor Chadwick Boseman, and singer Nina Simone are spotlighted, as well as lesser-known individuals, such as artist Romare Bearden and musician Amethyst Kiah. Particularly poignant are the letters representing the four girls—Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley—who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
Equipped with a glossary to engage discussion regarding the importance of the individuals and places represented, this children’s book is a unique and engaging ABC primer that offers a rich display of regional, racial, and cultural heritage through word and image.
Illustrator upfromsumdirt (sic) is an award-winning artist who has galleried in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee and participated in curator Tewodross Melchishua’s traveling art exhibit entitled M3: MCs, Mics and Metaphors. His work has also been featured on the covers of African American Review and Tidal Basin Review, and he has created book cover designs for a number of authors, including Crystal E. Wilkinson, Dr. Adam J. Banks, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Keith Gilyard, and for his own chapbook collections, Caul & Response and Tangerine Tubman: A Long-Playing Poem. upfromsumdirt’s art or poetry has been featured online at Connotation Press, About Place Journal, New Southerner, Accents radio program, and Nat Creole Magazine.
At the book launch celebration, guests will have the opportunity to meet the author and get their books signed. Books may be pre-ordered from Plaid Elephant Books or purchased at the store on the day of the event.
Founded in 2021, Plaid Elephant Books is Central Kentucky’s only independent children’s bookstore. The store features a curated collection of more than 3,000 titles for babies through teenagers, along with puzzles, games, stuffed animals, and toys. Plaid Elephant Books is located at 116 N. 3rd Street in the heart of downtown Danville. Street parking is available, along with spots in designated public lots on 3rd street or the downtown parking garage. Preorders may be placed via the shop website at www.plaidelephantbooks.com/events.