Perfect Black by Crystal Wilkinson

 Perfect Black
 Crystal Wilkinson
 University Press of Kentucky 
 August 2021
 ISBN: 9780813151151
 112 pages
 HC: $29.95
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Crystal Wilkinson’s Perfect Black lends prose and illustration to her memory and the idea of belonging to her selfhood as a Black Appalachian. In this memoir, made of poems and personal writing, Wilkinson shows us a girl growing into a woman, learning about love for others and herself, along with surviving anti-Blackness and misogyny. She braids vivid images of cultural and physical geographies that hold her journey and shows that she belongs to all of it— her body, the trees, her grandparents, the creek, the iron skillet meals earned from tobacco farming, and her own processes of grief.

Wilkinson’s writing is paired with a diverse group of illustrations by her partner, Ronald Davis, that run the gamut from charcoal drawings to digital collages that help to completely show her intention: to share and to give tribute. She shares interactions with whiteness in the professional and pedestrian world, rape, her family, religion, recipes, mental illness, ancestors, and about being country. She gives tribute to her story and her complex being.  

Charice Starr is a creative, popular educator, and social justice trainer from North Alabama and Tennessee. She has created arts and nature programming for young people and families,  and is a co-founder of Knoxville’s Black Mamas’ Bailout, a community bail fund for arrested Black parents and caregivers in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Along with being a musician, she has directed an intergenerational leadership fellowship for  projects addressing current economic and racial inequity in Central Appalachia (land ownership, mass incarceration, youth rights, harmful development, community governance, and community organizing). Previously, she educated alongside and for young folks  on food justice in schools and with youth organizations,  as well as designed youth programming on social justice and the arts.  She also has trained across ages and facilitated workshops about art and creativity, economic justice, land justice, and Black land loss. Her current work is focused on creative writing and Black place based projects.