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 Short Story Collection Review    


Water Street
by Crystal E. Wilkinson
Toby Press, 2002, 2005
175 pages
Hardcover, $19.95 ISBN:  1902881591
Trade paper, $12.95  ISBN: 1-59264-055-9

Crystal Wilkinson in her second book Water Street once again proves to be talented at character driven storytelling.  The stories examine the person the community sees as well as the secrets they hold.  Instead of a disconnected short story collection, Water Street is composed of neighbors in a small Kentucky town with shared experiences. 

In “My Girl Mona,” Yolanda expresses the normal teenage traumas of being pretty enough to attract men.  She compares herself to her girlfriend Mona, who is physically mature and beautiful.  She listens as Mona visits her older brother Kiki’s room.  As an adult, Yolanda worries if her husband Junior would have rather married Mona. 

In “Man Crazy,” Mona examines the men in her past, while she searched for her true love.  Ending up alone in her life, Mona remembers the empty feeling after sex and the desire to move to the next man with hope. 

“Sixteen Confessions of Lois Carter,” explores the dreams of a white girl who falls in love with a black man, then how their love holds them together as both families are at odds with their marriage. 

“Respite,” is the story of Lois Carter’s mother-in-law Pearline, who comes to live with them.  She feels uneasy at first, then devises her secret life after they leave for work, where she can cook her fatty foods and go for long walks. 

In addition, there are stories of a girl discovering the father she never knew; a minister loved by all, yet who is afraid of physical love with a woman; and the horror of family reunions.  Wilkinson’s characters are complex and emotionally raw.  The thirteen stories weave together to create the feeling of a novel. 

Crystal Wilkinson is a charter member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of performing African-American poets from the South, and serves as chair of the creative writing department for the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.  She teaches creative writing at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, and the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.  Wilkinson is currently the writer-in-residence for Eastern Kentucky University.  

Now available in trade paper, Water Street was nominated for the Orange Prize and for the Hurston/Wright Award.


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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