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2003 Oklahoma Book Award Winners

2003 Book Award Winners
(left to right) Darleen Bailey Beard, Murv Jacobs, Joy Harjo, and Michael A. Mares—not pictured Diane Glancy

Children and Young Adult

cover of Babbs Switch StoryThe Babbs Switch Story—Darleen Bailey Beard
Babbs Switch, Oklahoma was a real town, and a thriving community until a fire in its one-room schoolhouse claimed the lives of thirty-six people on Christmas Eve, 1924. Based on this true story that made national headlines, Bailey Beard’s novel is also filled with warmth and humor, and told in the sparkling voice of a spunky, irreverent heroine. The author is a frequent speaker to young people, and lives in Norman with her two children, Spencer and Karalee.


cover of Joy Harjo's poetry bookPoetry

How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems—Joy Harjo
This collection offers a selection of Joy Harjo’s body of work, including new poetry written within the past four years, as well as author commentary on the individual poems. Harjo received the 1995 Oklahoma Book Award in Poetry for The Woman Who Fell from the Sky. Harjo is the recipient of the 2003 Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.



cover of The Mask MakerThe Mask Maker: A Novel—Diane Glancy—University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK
Edith Lewis, a recently divorced mixed-blood American Indian, travels Oklahoma teaching students the custom of mask making. As Edith works to reach students on an intuitive, creative level, she confronts her own questions about identify and meaning. Glancy was, herself, an artist-in-residence for the Oklahoma State Arts Council. Today, she is a Professor of English at Macalester College in Minnesota. She has been a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction categories.

cover of The Great Ball GameDesign and Illustration

The Great Ball Game of the Birds and Animals—Drawings by Murv Jacob
Jacob is an award-winning artist and pipe maker who makes his home in Tahlequah. This marks the fourth time he has been honored as an Oklahoma Book Award finalist in design and illustration. The Great Ball Game is inspired by an ancient Cherokee story about courage, creativity and determination. Jacob’s drawings bring the characters of this legend to life for a new generation of children.


cover of A Desert CallingNon-Fiction

A Desert Calling: Life in a Forbidding Landscape—Michael A. Mares
Hostile habitats can reveal remarkable behavioral, physiological, and ecological adaptations to field observers with fortitude enough to struggle through the perils and pitfalls awaiting them. Deserts denote barren wasteland, but Mares, while revealing intimately the biologist’s life in the field, presents his life-filled findings from the deserts of Argentina, Iran, Egypt, and the American Southwest. The driving force in the establishment of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma, and its former director, Mares serves as the museum’s curator of mammals.


Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award

In addition to the five categories listed, the board of directors of the Oklahoma Center for the Book selects one person each year to be honored for a body of work. This award, the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, was named for the Norman, Oklahoma, historian who served as the first president of the Oklahoma Center for the Book.

photo of Joy Harjo at the ceremonyRecognized as one of America’s foremost poets, Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa and is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Nation. She received the Oklahoma Book Award in 1995 in the poetry category for The Woman Who Fell From the Sky.

She is a high school graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she studied painting and theater, not poetry and music. She received a BA degree from the University of New Mexico followed by an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She began writing poetry when the national Indian political climate demanded singers and speakers, and was taken by the intensity in the craft.

She has published seven books of poetry. They include: The Last Song, She Had Some Horses, In Mad Love and War, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, A Map to the Next World, and What Moon Drove Me to This? Her most recent book, How We Became Human, New and Selected Poems won the 2003 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry.

Awards for her writing include the 2002 Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the 2001 American Indian Festival of Words Author Award from the Tulsa City County Library, the 2000 Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the 1988 Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is also a member of the National Council on the Arts.

Harjo was the narrator for the Native American series on Turner Network and the narrator for the Emmy award-winning show, Navajo Codetalkers for National Geographic.

Currently living in Honolulu, Hawaii, Harjo travels nationally and internationally playing saxophone with her band.


Ralph Ellison Award

From time to time the Ralph Ellison Award, posthumously honoring an Oklahoma writer, is also presented. The award is named for Ellison, the first recipient, who was honored in 1995. A plaque is displayed at the Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City bearing the names of each recipient.

There was no 2003 recipient.


To see complete list of 2003 Oklahoma Book Award Finalists go here.


The Oklahoma Center for the Book, sponsor of the Oklahoma Book Award competition, is located in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Established in 1986 as an outreach program of the Library of Congress, the Oklahoma Center was the fourth such state center formed. Additional sponsorship of the awards program is through the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, a nonprofit 501-c-3 organization.

The mission of the Oklahoma Center for the Book is
to promote the work of Oklahoma authors,
to promote the literary heritage of the state, and
to encourage reading for pleasure by Oklahomans of all ages.

For further information about the Oklahoma Center for the Book or the Oklahoma Book Award program, contact Connie Armstrong, 200 NE 18th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73105; or 405-522-3383.


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