2020 Oklahoma Book Awards


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.

Voices-from-the-Heartland-Volume 2

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.

Oklahoma’s Atticus

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.

The Problem of Democracy

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.

Tulsa 1921 Reporting a Massacre

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.

Conviction: The Murder Trial That Powered Thurgood Marshall’s Fight for Civil Rights

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.

Black Towns, Black Futures: The Enduring Allure of a Black Place in the American West

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 Boxings Invisible Champion. The author lives in Austin, Texas.

The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film