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2020 Oklahoma Book Awards

The annual Oklahoma Book Awards program, sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book and the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, honors books with an Oklahoma theme as well as books written, illustrated and designed by people who have lived or are living in Oklahoma.

UPDATE: Because of continued uncertainty due to the pandemic, the Center has decided to cancel the 2021 Oklahoma Book Awards ceremony. The competition continues (115 book award entries for this year!), but our medalists will not be picking up their honors at an in-person event. Winners will be recognized online in April.

Author, attorney, educator, and consultant Hannibal B. Johnson, who was to receive the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020 will be given the award this April. We are working on plans to properly honor all of our 2021 Book Award recipients online.


The 2020 Book Award competition attracted 134 entries in fiction, non-fiction, children/young adult, poetry, and design/illustration categories. Thirty-two finalists were selected, including one book that was a finalist in two categories.

Unfortunately the Oklahoma Book Awards ceremony which was scheduled for May 2, 2020, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since we were unable to celebrate and honor the winners and finalists in person, we hope you will reach out to congratulate them and support them with reading and purchasing their books. We reached out to the 2020 Oklahoma Book Awards Winners virtually to get their reactions.

Children

Bear is Awake!
Hannah E. Harrison
Penguin Random House

For months, Bear has slumbered away in hibernation. Now Bear is awake and decides to take a walk outside. Bear stumbles onto a cabin, rings the doorbell, and finds a very surprised girl, who becomes a new friend. Together they embark on an exciting journey through the alphabet. They discover how each letter begins a word, and words describe all sorts of things including emotions. For example, Bear loves to eat, and the letter “F” is the first letter in “food!” Harrison is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator. Her book Extraordinary Jane won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award for illustration. She won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award for both children’s book and illustration for Friends Stick Together. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Ada, Oklahoma.

Young Adult

CAPE
Kate Hannigan
Simon & Schuster

Josie O’Maley decides that if she cannot fight in World War II like her dad, or be like her beloved superheroes who have mysteriously disappeared, she will use her own skills to help in the war effort: puzzling and coding. When she is rejected from a puzzling tryout because she is a girl, Josie is swept into a secretive program along with two new friends, Akiko and Mae. These three share a love of female superheroes, and one afternoon the three are suddenly transformed into the newest caped crusaders. This awesome trio must now use their superpowers to thwart a shape-shifting henchman of Hitler, crack the code on a top secret project that hits too close to home, and bring back the missing superheroes once and for all. Award-winning author Hannigan grew up in Oklahoma and writes young adult fiction and non-fiction. She lives with her family in Chicago, Illinois.

A Pirates Life for She: Swashbuckling Women Through the Ages
Laura Sook Duncombe
Chicago Review Press

Pirates are an enduringly popular subject. When we think of pirates, do adventurous females come to mind? Rarely are these historic figures part of the conversation. What do you really know about women pirates? Who were they? Why did they go to sea? What were their lives really like? Duncombe provides a fascinating look at sixteen female buccaneers, who sailed alongside—and sometimes in command of—their male counterparts. These women came from all walks of life, but had one thing in common: a desire for freedom.

Duncombe is an author, lawyer, and feminist who enjoys Star Wars, Broadway, and Sherlock Holmes, when she is not out pirating. She and her family reside in Tulsa.

CAPE
Kate Hannigan
Simon & Schuster

Josie O’Maley decides that if she cannot fight in World War II like her dad, or be like her beloved superheroes who have mysteriously disappeared, she will use her own skills to help in the war effort: puzzling and coding. When she is rejected from a puzzling tryout because she is a girl, Josie is swept into a secretive program along with two new friends, Akiko and Mae. These three share a love of female superheroes, and one afternoon the three are suddenly transformed into the newest caped crusaders. This awesome trio must now use their superpowers to thwart a shape-shifting henchman of Hitler, crack the code on a top secret project that hits too close to home, and bring back the missing superheroes once and for all. Award-winning author Hannigan grew up in Oklahoma and writes young adult fiction and non-fiction. She lives with her family in Chicago, Illinois.

Bear is Awake!
Hannah E. Harrison
Penguin Random House

For months, Bear has slumbered away in hibernation. Now Bear is awake and decides to take a walk outside. Bear stumbles onto a cabin, rings the doorbell, and finds a very surprised girl, who becomes a new friend. Together they embark on an exciting journey through the alphabet. They discover how each letter begins a word, and words describe all sorts of things including emotions. For example, Bear loves to eat, and the letter “F” is the first letter in “food!” Harrison is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator. Her book Extraordinary Jane won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award for illustration. She won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award for both children’s book and illustration for Friends Stick Together. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Ada, Oklahoma.

Chickasaw Adventures: The Complete Collection
Tom Lyle
White Dog Press

Over twenty years ago, the first Chickasaw Adventures comic books were released as part of an effort to educate Chickasaw citizens and the general public about the tribe’s history and culture. Between 2004 and 2005, seven issues of Chickasaw Adventures were made available to readers of all ages. Chickasaw Adventures: The Complete Collection, a compendium graphic novel, features issues one through seven, as well as never-before-seen issues eight through twelve that wrap up the time-traveling series.

The late Tom Lyle, best known for his work in both Marvel and DC comic books, brings the Chickasaw Nation’s history to life through his illustration. Chickasaw language is used throughout the comics to encourage language learning, as readers are introduced to Johnny, a Chickasaw teen with the power to travel back in time to various points in Chickasaw history.

A Little Chicken
Tammi Sauer
Sterling Publishing Company

Dot is a little chicken who is scared of a lot of things including wolves, bears, and the occasional lawn ornament. But when one of her mother’s eggs accidentally rolls out of the coop, this nervous chick must pluck up her courage and save the day—and her soon-to-be sibling! This delightful book is perfect for any child who needs a little encouragement to face the challenging world.

Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is the author of many children’s picture books. She won the Oklahoma Book Award for children in 2010 for Chicken Dance; in 2011 for Mostly Monsterly; and in 2014 for Nugget & Fang. She lives with her family in Edmond.

Nugget & Fang Go To School
Tammi Sauer & Michael Slack
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Nugget, a minnow, and Fang, a shark, are unlikely best friends who live deep in the ocean. One day Fang’s friends invite him to enroll at Mini Minnows Elementary School with them. Fang thinks this is a great idea, and he is excited to attend. However, when the first day of school arrives he is definitely having second thoughts. Fang realizes he is not very good at reading or math. He does not exactly fit in with his classmates, and the teacher looks crabby! Can Nugget and the other minnows turn things around and prove to Fang that school really is awesome?

This year is not the first time award-winning and prolific author Sauer has competed against herself in the children’s category. She lives with her family in Edmond when she is not traveling the country presenting in schools and libraries.

Design

Protecting Our People: Chickasaw Law Enforcement in Indian Territory
Cover design by Corey Fetters and book design by Gentry Fisher
Chickasaw Press

The velvet laminated, tactile dust jacket draws the reader in with its beautiful vintage photograph suggesting notable subject matter. Inside, there is an uncluttered and consistent approach to layout with large type. Both headings and text have typefaces clearly chosen with care and consideration of context. The numerous archival photographs are presented with understated drop shadows, transitioning to contemporary, color photographs. The design has a serious, yet welcoming feel. Both Fetters and Fisher are previous Oklahoma Book Award finalists for their design work with Chickasaw Press. Fetters received the 2016 Oklahoma Book Award for his work on Ilittibaaimpa’: Let’s Eat Together! A Chickasaw Cookbook.

Illustration

Bear is Awake!
Hannah E. Harrison
Penguin Random House

For months, Bear has slumbered away in hibernation. Now Bear is awake and decides to take a walk outside. Bear stumbles onto a cabin, rings the doorbell, and finds a very surprised girl, who becomes a new friend. Together they embark on an exciting journey through the alphabet. They discover how each letter begins a word, and words describe all sorts of things including emotions. For example, Bear loves to eat, and the letter “F” is the first letter in “food!” Harrison is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator. Her book Extraordinary Jane won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award for illustration. She won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award for both children’s book and illustration for Friends Stick Together. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Ada, Oklahoma.

To The Max: Max Weitzenhoffer's Magical Trip from Oklahoma to New York and London—And Back
Book Design by Carl Brune
Full Circle Press

The immediate appeal of this book may be the full-sized Al Hirschfeld drawing of producer Max Weitzenhoffer, piquing interest in anyone with the slightest acquaintance with Broadway or show business. The biography is rich with memorabilia, illustrations, and photographs presented with a candid, snapshot quality, as though the reader were privy to a family album or yearbook. Edward Gorey illustrates one chapter with drawings. Distinctive, initial caps set in drop shadow typeface with bright color mark each new chapter. Throughout the book there are paragraph-long reminisces, in Weitzenhoffer’s words, set in the center of pages surrounded by white space and faced with photographs or illustrations. The design tone is light and almost playful, conveying its subject’s exuberant life. Designer Carl Brune is a three-time winner in this category. He lives in Tulsa.

Protecting Our People: Chickasaw Law Enforcement in Indian Territory
Cover design by Corey Fetters and book design by Gentry Fisher
Chickasaw Press

The velvet laminated, tactile dust jacket draws the reader in with its beautiful vintage photograph suggesting notable subject matter. Inside, there is an uncluttered and consistent approach to layout with large type. Both headings and text have typefaces clearly chosen with care and consideration of context. The numerous archival photographs are presented with understated drop shadows, transitioning to contemporary, color photographs. The design has a serious, yet welcoming feel. Both Fetters and Fisher are previous Oklahoma Book Award finalists for their design work with Chickasaw Press. Fetters received the 2016 Oklahoma Book Award for his work on Ilittibaaimpa’: Let’s Eat Together! A Chickasaw Cookbook.

Bear is Awake!
Hannah E. Harrison
Penguin Random House

For months, Bear has slumbered away in hibernation. Now Bear is awake and decides to take a walk outside. Bear stumbles onto a cabin, rings the doorbell, and finds a very surprised girl, who becomes a new friend. Together they embark on an exciting journey through the alphabet. They discover how each letter begins a word, and words describe all sorts of things including emotions. For example, Bear loves to eat, and the letter “F” is the first letter in “food!” Harrison is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator. Her book Extraordinary Jane won the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award for illustration. She won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award for both children’s book and illustration for Friends Stick Together. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Ada, Oklahoma.

Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra
Illustrated by Terry Widener

Highlights Press

Widener’s illustrations have noticeable texture suggesting origins in painting, pastels, or chalk. The artist’s style is almost childlike, bold and warm. Figures have the doughy look of sculpted clay. The title character is always highlighted with a thick white outline. One page’s composition portrays the passage of time by containing three or four staggered views of young Yogi. One page with Yogi squatting on a ship’s deck (during World War II) faces a page with the New York Yankee catcher in an identical pose on a baseball diamond. This book is Oklahoma native Terry Widener’s sixth about baseball heroes. He won the 2017 Illustration award for My Name is James Madison Hemings.

Fiction

Catacombs
Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press

In her latest Faye Longchamp mystery, Evans explores what secrets can lie beneath the surface? Faye is in Oklahoma City, attending a conference celebrating indigenous arts. A deafening explosion rocks the historic hotel she is staying at, and sends Faye crashing to the lobby’s marble floor. She is not injured, but she is shaken—after all, anytime something blows up in Oklahoma City, the first word that comes to mind is bomb! To Faye’s amazement, the explosion reveals subterranean chambers that once housed Chinese immigrants a century before. Her excitement upon the discovery soon turns to dread, as the bodies of three children are found deep beneath the city. Evans teaches fiction and nonfiction writing at the University of Oklahoma. She resides in Washington, Oklahoma.

Shadow of the Taj
Lara Bernhardt

Black Opal Books

Leslie Matthews travels to Indian with her husband and risks everything to save Raveena, a twelve-year-old girl she first sees at the New Delhi Zoo, where her handlers force her to dance seductively for money. Wanting to help and haunted by her own dark past, Leslie follows the girl and finds herself drawn into the sex trafficking industry. When she learns Raveena will soon be forced into prostitution, Leslie resolves to save her. Yet, she faces obstacles everywhere. The police and embassy cannot help, and her husband refuses any assistance. Although Leslie is inexperienced in dealing with the shady underground associated with sexual slavery, she is determined to rescue the young girl, whatever the cost. Bernhard is a Pushcart-nominated writer, editor, and audiobook narrator. Her book The Wantland Files, was a finalist for the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award for fiction. Bernhard, and her husband William, live in Choctaw, Oklahoma.

The Last Chance Lawyer
William Bernhardt

Babylon Books

In this gripping legal thriller, Daniel Pike, the most notorious criminal lawyer in St. Petersburg, would rather fight for justice than follow the rules. After his courtroom career goes up in smoke, he receives a mysterious job offer from a secretive boss. He is to protect a young orphan from a terrifying fate. In order to do this, Pike must defend the girl’s guardian from a first-degree murder charge. Using every trick he knows, he uncovers a trail of deceit from Florida to El Salvador. When blood-soaked threats arrive, Pike realizes that winning the case might be a death sentence for him, and everyone he hoped to protect. Bernhardt is the nationally-bestselling author of more than forty books. He won the 1995 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction for Perfect Justice, and again in 2000 for Dark Justice. In 2019 Bernhardt received the Oklahoma Center for the Book’s Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement. He and his wife, Lara, reside in Choctaw, Oklahoma.

The Wrong Girl
Donis Casey

Poisoned Pen Press

In Casey’s latest novel, the reader is transported to the 1920s, where a daring young girl chases her dream. Blanche Tucker longs to escape life in Boynton, Oklahoma. When Graham Peyton comes to town, posing as a film producer, he convinces the naïve teenager to run away with him, promising her a glamorous new life. When Graham’s cruelty is revealed, she begins to take charge of her own life and travels to Hollywood. Six years later, Blanche has transformed into the celebrated Bianca LaBelle, a reclusive star of adventure films. When Graham’s remains are found on a Santa Monica beach, the question becomes: is there a connection between LaBelle and Graham? Casey is the author of ten Alafair Tucker mysteries. She has twice won the Arizona Book Award, been a finalist for the Willa Award, and a nine-time finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award for fiction. She lives in Tempe, Arizona.  

Seeking Grace in Beulah Land
Lu Clifton
Two Shadows Books

Grace Barlow suddenly disappears from Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, after the final days of World War II. The local residents are mystified as to what happened to the young wife and mother of two daughters. When her husband, Grover, did not file a missing person’s report, people assumed Grace had left of her own free will; after all, she was a free-spirited woman with huge aspirations. Grover quietly carried on with his life as a sharecropper, raising his two girls. Over the next sixty years, he did not mention Grace’s name, until now. When Mack Barlow returns to Pittsburg County to deal with his grandfather’s end-of-life requests, he discovers information about the night Grace disappeared. A native Oklahoman, Clifton writes both young adult and adult fiction. She was a 2017 Oklahoma Book Award finalist for Scalp Dance, and again in 2018 for her book The Bone Picker. Her book Seeking Cassandra won the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award in the young adult category. She resides in Davis, Illinois.

Crystalline Crypt
Mary Coley
Moonglow Books

Mandy Lyon’s best friend Jenna Wade holds tightly to her secret past. An orphan, Jenna never confides anything about her early life, until one afternoon when she discovers a painting of herself in a Tulsa art gallery. Wanting to learn more about her friend, Mandy ignores Jenna’s wishes and finds the painting. Now after just one hour has past, the gallery is on fire and Jenna is missing. At the risk of losing her job, Mandy sets out to find her friend. Her journey leads to the discovery of a cryptic note, a creepy Tulsa funeral home, and a ranch near Medicine Park in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains. Mandy soon becomes convinced that someone would rather see her dead than have Jenna’s secrets revealed. Coley, the author of seven mystery/suspense novels is the winner of the 2018 Tony Hillerman Award. She divides her time between Oklahoma and New Mexico.

West of Alva
Dave Eagleston
Dave Eagleston Publisher

Matt is a fifteen-year old boy from Tulsa, who has never stepped foot on a farm. Now, away from home, he finds himself homesick and employed by a poor, alcoholic wheat farmer near Alva. He doesn’t understand why he must sleep on the attic floor across the room from the old farmer. As the days pass, Matt faces the challenges associated with farm life, and slowly begins to learn the truth about the farmer’s downfall. When he hits a roadblock, Matt turns to his new young friends, Carl and Sam. Can the farmer stay sober long enough for the new friends to find the hidden connection between Camp Alva and a dangerous plot to terrorize the farmer and take over his farm? Eagleston grew up in Tulsa and graduated from Oklahoma State University. He currently lives in McKinney, Texas.

Catacombs
Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press

In her latest Faye Longchamp mystery, Evans explores what secrets can lie beneath the surface? Faye is in Oklahoma City, attending a conference celebrating indigenous arts. A deafening explosion rocks the historic hotel she is staying at, and sends Faye crashing to the lobby’s marble floor. She is not injured, but she is shaken—after all, anytime something blows up in Oklahoma City, the first word that comes to mind is bomb! To Faye’s amazement, the explosion reveals subterranean chambers that once housed Chinese immigrants a century before. Her excitement upon the discovery soon turns to dread, as the bodies of three children are found deep beneath the city. Evans teaches fiction and nonfiction writing at the University of Oklahoma. She resides in Washington, Oklahoma.

The Tale Teller
Anne Hillerman
HarperCollins

Three crimes have taken place on the Navajo reservation: the disappearance of a priceless artifact, a murder, and a theft. Navajo Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn returns to the police department, attempting to solve a perplexing case involving a missing traditional weaving that had been donated to the Navajo Nation. As the investigation unfolds, the lead suspect dies under mysterious circumstances, and Leaphorn receives an anonymous warning. The discovery of a homicide victim by Tribal Officer Bernie Manuelito creates more complications as the tribal police and the FBI are caught in a turf war. Moreover, Sergeant Jim Chee’s burglary case evolves into something more sinister. As these three peace officers’ investigations merge together, it creates an unexpected opportunity for Bernie Manuelito. Hillerman was born in Lawton and is an award-winning reporter and the author of seven non-fiction books. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A Forgotten Evil
Sheldon Russell
Cynren Press

Caleb Justin and Joshua Hart have big dreams in post-Civil War America. They leave Ohio headed for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where they intend to join Sheridan’s troops in their pursuit of Indian lands. Things do not work out as planned, and Joshua is assigned to George Armstrong Custer’s troops, while an injury has left Caleb alone and undefended on a war-ravaged prairie, where he is captured by Indians. Later, Caleb finds himself once again alone on the prairie, until he meets Joan Monnet, the daughter of a wealthy railroad magnate, who was rescued from an Indian attack. In the winter of 1868, Custer is poised to attack a Cheyenne village, located on the Washita River. Joshua, Caleb, and Joan are suddenly trapped in the crossfire of one of the bloodiest battles on the American frontier. Will their courage be enough to survive? Russell won the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award in fiction for Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush, and again in 2018 for The Bridge Troll Murders. He and his wife, Nancy, live in Waynoka, Oklahoma.

Non-Fiction

Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre
Randy Krehbiel
University of Oklahoma Press

Krehbiel gives a thorough account of the events surrounding one of America’s most horrific race massacres. Tulsa’s Greenwood District was a thriving African American community in 1921, but events surrounding the alleged rape of a white girl by a young black man resulted in the death of at least 300 people and the destruction of “Black Wall Street.” The author explores the local culture, including political and economic corruption during the 1920s; a feud among black-owned newspapers; and the role of both the Tulsa World and the Tulsa Tribune to answer how these entities may have influenced the event. Krehbiel also highlights the resiliency of the African American community in Tulsa following the massacre, despite continuing to face systemic racism. Finally, he addresses whether Tulsa and the nation has finally exorcised the prejudices that led to the tragedy. Krehbiel is a reporter for the Tulsa World, and is the author of Tulsa’s Daily World: The Story of a Newspaper and Its Town.

Voices from the Heartland: Volume II
edited by Sara N. Beam, Emily Dial-Driver, Rilla Askew, and Juliet Evusa
University of Oklahoma Press

This much anticipated sequel of the highly acclaimed anthology Voices from the Heartland provides memorable accounts of struggle and transformation, as it highlights an even broader cross-section of women’s experiences. This is an honest, straightforward look at the problems women face in modern-day Oklahoma, as well as in many parts of America: racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and addiction. These stories cover a wide array of topics including girlhood, trauma, the workplace, parenting, politics, and religion. Bean is the director of the Writing Program and Applied Assistant Professor of English at the University of Tulsa; Emily Dial-Driver is Professor of English and Humanities at Rogers State University; Rilla Askew is an award-winning author, recipient of the Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement, and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma; and Juliet Evusa is Professor of Communications at Rogers State University.

Oklahoma’s Atticus: An Innocent Man and the Lawyer Who Fought for Him
Hunter Howe Cates
University of Nebraska Press

In 1953 Tulsans were enthusiastic to showcase their young, vibrant city, as they prepared to host the International Petroleum Exhibition. However, a grisly crime that took place in the slums of north Tulsa soon gripped the city and the nation’s attention as well. Cates explores the legal case surrounding the rape and murder of eleven-year-old Phyllis Jean Warren, and the poor Cherokee Buster Youngwolfe who confessed to killing his young relative. He later recanted his story, claiming police brutality was responsible for his admission of guilt. The author details how public defender and Creek Indian Elliott Howe (the author’s grandfather) risked his career to defend Youngwolfe against the powerful district attorney’s office. Cates, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is a journalist, author, filmmaker, and creative marketing professional. He lives in Tulsa.

Painting Culture, Painting Nature: Stephen Mopope, Oscar Jacobson, and the Development of Indian Art in Oklahoma
Gunlög Fur

University of Oklahoma Press

Fur provides an in-depth look at the relationship between Swedish-born professor and artist Oscar Brousse Jacobson and Stephen Mopope, a prolific painter, dancer, musician, and member of the famed Kiowa Six. While these two artists transformed Oklahoma into the center of exciting new developments in Indian art, which quickly spread across America and Europe, their style and subjects diverged dramatically. Moreover, Fur examines the differences between the two, noting that Jacobson and Mopope came from radically different worlds, and were on unequal footing in terms of power and equality; yet both experienced a personal diaspora. They both succeeded in setting roots deep into Oklahoma, and fashioned new mediums of compelling and original art. This book showcases the artist’s works by including full-color reproductions and rare historical photographs. Fur is Professor of History and Dean of Arts and Humanities at Linnaeus University, Sweden.

The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality
Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein
Penguin Random House

Isenberg and Burstein examine the political careers of John and John Quincy Adams, the second and sixth presidents of the United States. Both intellectually and politically astute, this father and son continually espoused the “problems of democracy,” warning against the dangers of hero worship oftentimes associated with political figures including many of the Founding Fathers. The authors trace the temperature of American democracy from its heated origins through multiple storm events, providing major lessons about the excesses of campaign rhetoric that apply to American society today. Isenberg, who once taught at the University of Tulsa, is the T. Harry Williams Professor of American History at Louisiana State University. She won the 2008 Oklahoma Book Award in non-fiction for Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr. Burstein is the Charles P. Manship Professor of History at Louisiana State University.

Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre
Randy Krehbiel
University of Oklahoma Press

Krehbiel gives a thorough account of the events surrounding one of America’s most horrific race massacres. Tulsa’s Greenwood District was a thriving African American community in 1921, but events surrounding the alleged rape of a white girl by a young black man resulted in the death of at least 300 people and the destruction of “Black Wall Street.” The author explores the local culture, including political and economic corruption during the 1920s; a feud among black-owned newspapers; and the role of both the Tulsa World and the Tulsa Tribune to answer how these entities may have influenced the event. Krehbiel also highlights the resiliency of the African American community in Tulsa following the massacre, despite continuing to face systemic racism. Finally, he addresses whether Tulsa and the nation has finally exorcised the prejudices that led to the tragedy. Krehbiel is a reporter for the Tulsa World, and is the author of Tulsa’s Daily World: The Story of a Newspaper and Its Town.

Conviction: The Murder Trial That Powered Thurgood Marshall's Fight for Civil Rights
Denver Nicks and John Nicks
Lawrence Hill Books

In 1939 Thurgood Marshall was working as a young chief counsel for the NAACP’s new Legal Defense and Education Fund. That same year, the gruesome murders of three white family members occurred in rural Oklahoma. Although the investigation identified the killers as convicts on a work release program, W.D. Lyons, a young black man, was arrested and tortured into signing a confession for the murders. Marshall came to Oklahoma to take part in Lyon’s defense during the trial. Filled with dramatic plot twists, the authors meticulously tell the story of the case that was eventually heard by the United States Supreme Court, and set Marshall and the NAACP on the path that ultimately led to victory in Brown v Board of Education and the accompanying social revolution in the United States. Denver Nicks is the author of Private: Bradley Manning, Wikileaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History. John Nicks practices law in Tulsa.

Black Towns, Black Futures: The Enduring Allure of a Black Place in the American West
Karla Slocum
The University of North Carolina Press

Oklahoma’s history is unique, unlike any other state in the nation. The formation of all-black towns in Oklahoma has added to this rich history. Slocum’s book reveals that these towns, which thrived during the Jim Crow era, are more than a place in our past. In fact, today people from diverse backgrounds are still lured to these communities because of their historical significance as well as their racial identity and rural placement. These individuals include tourists, predatory lenders, developers, return migrants, rodeo spectators, and gentrifiers to name a few. She ultimately makes the case that these communities are places for affirming, building, and dreaming of black community success, even as they contend with the sometimes marginality of black and rural America. Slocum is the Thomas Willis Lambeth Distinguished Chair in Public Policy and Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film
W.K. Stratton
Bloomsbury Publishing

This is the fascinating story regarding the making of the film The Wild Bunch, named one of the greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute. Stratton explains the movie’s success can be attributed to its controversial director Sam Peckinpah, the all-star cast, and the contributions of Mexican and Mexican American actors and crew members. Moreover, the movie was also a product of an industry and nation in transition as the traditional Hollywood cowboy image had disappeared and society was embroiled in the Vietnam War, racial tension, and assassinations. The Wild Bunch spoke to America in its moment, when war and senseless violence seemed to define both domestic and international life. Stratton, who lived in Oklahoma for more than three decades, is the author of five books and won the 2013 Oklahoma Book Award in non-fiction for Floyd Patterson: The Fighting Life of Boxing’s Invisible Champion. The author lives in Austin, Texas.

Poetry

An American Sunrise
Joy Harjo
W.W. Norton and Company

Two hundred years after her people were forcibly removed from their original home east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, Harjo returns to her family lands to engage in a dialogue with the past. Tribal history and personal experience interweave to reveal spiritual connections and new insights. Harjo’s beautiful work educates, engages, and elevates. A multiple-award winning poet, Harjo is a two-time Oklahoma Book Award medalist in poetry, and recipient of the Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2019 she was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, the first Native American poet to hold that honor.

100 Years
Nathan Brown
Mezcalita Press

Brown’s latest collection takes readers on an incredible American journey with a diversity of travelers: friends, family, strangers, and ourselves experiencing life—growing, self destructing, working, discovering ourselves, connecting with and escaping from family, aging in so many ways, and dying. And waiting to die. Along the way, we discover the value of our days and years. Brown is former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, a perennial finalist in this category, and winner of the Oklahoma Book Award for his collection Two Tables Over.

Not Quite Pilgrims
Ken Hada
Virtual Artist Collective
 

Hada’s poetry explores the escape nature provides for our bodies and our souls. We leave the mundane and the ugly (hate and bigotry) to find the river, to go fishing for the first time (and remember it for the rest of our life), notice the brightness of the light, and the beauty of the water “that makes its own way.” Hada reveals that we are all travelers, always looking for home. He is an award-winning poet and professor at East Central University where he directs the annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, an endeavor which earned him the Glenda Carlile Distinguished Service Award, presented by the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book.

An American Sunrise
Joy Harjo
W.W. Norton and Company

Two hundred years after her people were forcibly removed from their original home east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, Harjo returns to her family lands to engage in a dialogue with the past. Tribal history and personal experience interweave to reveal spiritual connections and new insights. Harjo’s beautiful work educates, engages, and elevates. A multiple-award winning poet, Harjo is a two-time Oklahoma Book Award medalist in poetry, and recipient of the Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2019 she was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, the first Native American poet to hold that honor.

Red Corn Moon: Songs of the Harvest
Karen Kay Knauss
Peach Tree Press

Knauss focuses on simple things that become exceptional in her beautiful reflections; reflections of each bird, of the dragonfly with its measured time, of two pieces of chipped china full of family memories, and of following her mother for the harvest beneath the red corn moon to find “clarity and sweet reflection.” Knauss is a native Oklahoman who has enjoyed careers as a singer, artist, and author. Her collection Where Once A Willow received the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Book of Poetry Award in 2017. She lives in Blanchard.

Black Sunday
Benjamin Myers
Lamar University Press

Myers provides a well-researched collection of poems to tell stories of those who were caught in the destruction of the Dust Bowl. He describes the unrelenting horror and provides heartbreaking, unique, and exacting descriptions of people and animals, and of the land “torn open to its God.” A personal and memorable collection that stays with and haunts the reader. Myers is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma, and recipient of the Oklahoma Book Award for his collection Elegy for Trains. He is Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature at Oklahoma Baptist University.

Last Modified on Nov 12, 2021
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