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UK's Frank X Walker named Grand Prize Winner of 2023 Black Authors Matter Children’s Book Awards

UK professor and author and Frank X Walker
UK professor and author and Frank X Walker is the grand prize winner of the 2023 Black Authors Matter Children’s Book Awards. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2023) — "A Is for Affrilachia" by artist, writer, poet and University of Kentucky professor Frank X Walker is the grand prize winner of the 2023 Black Authors Matter Children’s Book Awards. Illustrated by acclaimed artist Ron Davis (upfromsumdirt), "A Is for Affrilachia" was chosen for best overall book and content and also selected as the best book in the educational category.

The Black Authors Matter Children’s Book Awards were established to honor excellence in African American literature. A panel of award-winning and/or award-nominated authors evaluated more than 150 entries. In addition to the grand prize, submissions were considered for the following categories: African diaspora; coloring books/workbooks/activity books; educational; motivational; religious/faith; social commentary/justice; and best illustrator. The winners were announced at the National Black Book Festival on Oct. 28 in Houston, Texas.

“Frank X Walker’s book received the highest score,” said Gwen Richardson, national coordinator of the National Black Book Festival. “In addition to winning the educational category, 'A Is for Affrilachia' received a perfect score overall from every judge.”

"A Is for Affrilachia" (University Press of Kentucky, February 2023) is an inspired children’s alphabet book that not only brings awareness of notable African Americans from the Appalachia region, but celebrates the people, physical spaces and historical events that may not be as well known in mainstream educational structures. Illustrated by acclaimed artist Davis (upfromsumdirt), every image exudes vibrancy, beauty and whimsy as it depicts each of the alphabetized words alongside the appropriate letter.

“Walker, who coined the term Affrilachia, celebrates the concept's past and present in this abecedarian accounting of ‘the spiritual and emotional home for everyone left out of the definition of Appalachia that requires whiteness as a prerequisite for membership.’ ... This emphatically affectionate love letter offers a springboard for learning more.”— Publishers Weekly

“Wow, what an honor,” said Walker. “I’m so pleased that somebody else appreciates this beautiful book and recognizes the good it is trying to do in the world as much as upfromsumdirt and I do.”

Frank X Walker, the first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate, is professor of English and African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington where he founded pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. He has published 11 collections of poetry, including "Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, Expanded Edition"; "Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems"; "When Winter Come: The Ascension of York"; 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 Lillian Smith Book Award and the Thomas D. Clark Award for Literary Excellence, he is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.

Upfromsumdirt, Ron Davis, autodidactic poet and award-winning visual artist, is the author of "The Second Stop Is Jupiter: Poems, Deifying a Total Darkness" and "To Emit Teal." He is currently storyboarding a graphic novel based on his poetry. He has also published works in anthologies and periodicals including The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry; Anthology of Appalachian Writers; Hayden’s Ferry Review; and more. His artwork is featured in the NAACP Image Award-winning poetry collection, "Perfect Black" by Crystal Wilkinson. He was inducted as a member into the Affrilachian Poets in 2022.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.