Pre-registering helps us order enough books for our guests and helps us set up the room for safety and comfort. At full capacity, we will allow pre-registrants to be seated first. No one will be turned away, but please note that seating is limited. Please contact the store ahead of time if you need assistance with mobility (more below) or other concerns - we are happy to help!
Original stories of Black family life in Louisville, Kentucky, for readers of Dantiel Moniz (Milk Blood Heat) and Kai Harris (What the Fireflies Knew).
“Surprising and revelatory. . . . I love this book.” —Stephanie Powell Watts, author of No One Is Coming to Save Us
The linked stories in Mama Said are set in Louisville, Kentucky, a city with a rich history steeped in tobacco, bourbon, and gambling, indulgences that can quickly become gripping and destructive vices. Set amid the tail end of the crack epidemic and the rise of the opioid crisis, Mama Said evokes Black family life in all its complexity, following JayLynn, along with her cousins Zaria and Angel, as they come of age struggling against their mothers’ drug addictions.
JayLynn heads to college intent on gaining distance from her depressed mother, only to learn that her mother’s illness has reached a terrifying peak. She fears the chaos and instability of her extended family will prove too much for her boyfriend, whose idyllic family feels worlds, not miles, apart from her own. When bats invade Zaria’s new home, she is forced to determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to be a good mother. Angel rebels on Derby night, risking her safety to connect with her absent mother and the wild ways that consumed her.
Mama Said separates from stereotypes of Black families, presenting instead the joy, humor, and love that coexist with the trauma of drug abuse within communities. Kristen Gentry’s stories showcase the wide-reaching repercussions of addiction and the ties that forever bind daughters to their mothers, flaws and all.
Kristen Gentry received her MFA from Indiana University. Her award-winning fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in kristengentry.com. and other journals. She is a VONA and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference alumna as well as a member of the inaugural Poets & Writers publicity incubator cohort for debut authors. Her passion is helping Black women and girls share their stories, the ones they’ve lived and the ones they create. She lives and writes in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information, visit her website at
Crystal Wilkinson, Kentucky’s Poet Laureate from 2021 to 2023, is the award-winning author of Perfect Black; The Birds of Opulence; Water Street; and Blackberries, Blackberries. She is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry, an O. Henry Prize, a USA Artists Fellowship, and an Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. She has received recognition from the Yaddo Foundation, Hedgebrook, The Hermitage Foundation, and others. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky in the creative writing MFA program.
The link below allows you to purchase the book in advance - we will have your copy at the event to be signed whenever possible. Books will also be available for purchase on-site, or on the registration page (this incurs additional service fees). Whatever is most convenient for you, we love to get you your favorite books!
Mobility device access info:
While our store has ramp access to the right of the main entrance, the event space is more easily accessed by entering at Bayly Avenue. Please call the store when you arrive and we will be happy to welcome you via this entrance. This door is next to a loading zone for easy car access, and our parking lot reserved ADA spots are also close to this entrance.
“A celebration of Black family life that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The collection will reshape what you think about the region and the people that inhabit it.” —Debutiful
“Surprising and revelatory. . . .
A lyrical culinary journey that explores the hidden legacy of Black Appalachians, through powerful storytelling alongside nearly forty comforting recipes, from the former poet laureate of Kentucky.
People are always surprised that Black people reside in the hills of Appalachia. Those not surprised that we were there, are surprised that we stayed.
Crystal Wilkinson combines a deep love for her rural roots with a passion for language and storytelling in this compelling collection of poetry and prose about girlhood, racism, and political awakening, imbued with vivid imagery of growing up in Southern Appalachia.