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2011 Oklahoma Book Award Winners

Oh, what a night! More than 200 writers, publishers and book lovers gathered at the Jim Thorpe Museum and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night, April 9, to celebrate Oklahoma authors and books during the 22nd annual book awards.

More than 120 books, published in 2010, were entered in the competition, and the 32 finalists selected by judges were the creme de la creme. At the end of the day, seven books walked away with medals for the authors/editors and publishers. We also honored our latest Arrell Gibson Award winner for Lifetime Achievement, Rilla Askew. Check out the honorees below.

photograph of 2011 winners
Honorees at the 22nd Annual Oklahoma Book Awards, back row: fiction medalist David Gerard; Director's Award recipients from the Oklahoma Historical Society, Linda Wilson, Jon May, Larry O'Dell, and Diana Everett; front row: Young Adult medalist M.J. Alexander, children's medalist Tammi Sauer; poetry winner Benjamin Myers; Lifetime Achievement recipient Rilla Askew, and book design medalist Carol Haralson. Non-fiction medalist S.C. Gwynne was unable to attend the event.

photograph of bookChildren/Young Adult

Children Winner Mostly MonsterlyTammi SauerSimon & Shuster, New York, NY

Bernadette is mostly monsterly, but she’s also a sweetie. She likes to pick flowers, pet kittens, and bake goodies. This is a big, big problem because monsters just don’t do those kinds of things, and her monster friends are good at reminding her of this. Our little Bernadette must find a way to be true to herself and still be part of her monster crew! Tami Sauer has been a teacher and a librarian. Her book Chicken Dance received the 2010 Oklahoma Book Award. She lives in Edmond with her family.

photograph of bookYoung Adult Winner Portrait of a Generation—The Children of Oklahoma: Sons and Daughters of the Red EarthM.J. AlexanderSouthwestern Publishing, Oklahoma City, OK

From Boise City to Broken Bow, Alexander chronicles the faces and words of more than 230 young Oklahomans in this “ode to the land and its people, the sons and daughters of the red earth.” Created for all generations, the book holds a special place for the young who can see themselves reflected in the pages. Older kids can especially connect with the dreams and hopes of their generation. Alexander is a photographer and journalist whose first book, Salt of the Red Earth, captured Oklahoma’s elders. She is a veteran of the Associated Press in New York, and former chair of the journalism department of St. Michael’s College in Vermont. She has called Oklahoma home since 1998.

photograph of bookDesign and Illustration

Design Winner Building One Fire designed by Carol HaralsonCherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK

Designer Haralson taps this book’s inspiration—the Four Directions concept of the Keetoowahs of the Cherokees—to graphically present 200 artworks, which speak to what it means to be Cherokee. Her award-winning attention to detail and story make the book a work of art unto itself for Cherokees, Oklahomans, and the rest of the world. Carol Haralson has won more Oklahoma Book Awards than any other person. The Miami, Oklahoma, native is a writer, editor, and designer now based in Sedona, Arizona.

Photograph of bookFiction

God’s Acres David GerardPenUltimate Press, St. Louis, MO

Gerard draws on his real-life experiences to tell this story of a family whose dreams of rural living outside St. Joseph, Missouri, turn to grief. Told from the perspective of six-year old Bud, each chapter is prefaced by a psalm and the voice of an adult Bud, closing the circle on a complex tale of family relationships. God’s Acres is, at turns, funny, and heartbreaking. Gerard earned a master’s degree in literature from the University of Tulsa in 1992. He has worked for the Muskogee Phoenix newspaper since 1995.


photograph of book

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryS. C. GwynneScribner, New York, NY

Gwynne’s New York Times bestseller spans two great stories of the continent: the rise and fall of the Comanches, the powerful Indian tribe that delayed America’s expansion west; and the epic saga of pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches. Gwynne is an award-winning journalist who worked as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor for Time magazine. He attended Princeton and Johns Hopkins and lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.

photograph of bookPoetry

Elegy for TrainsBenjamin MyersVillage Books Press, Cheyenne, OK

Myers poetry is intimately connected to the landscape of Oklahoma, while honoring the spiritual that connects all things. Oklahoma Book Award winner Carl Sennhenn says, “These meditative poems range from the rural to the urban, the past to the present, from gain to inevitable loss, and the universal to the personal—all with the ease of grace.” Myers, an associate professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, lives in his boyhood home of Chandler with his wife and three children.

Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award

“Oklahoma isn't what I write about; it's the place I write from—my spiritual and emotional and geographical center. It's where the voices reside. As a writer I always think of America as my subject, and Oklahoma as the landscape where the stories unfold.” —From “A Writer’s Source” by Rilla Askew, Tulsa World, December 20, 2090

photograph of Rilla Askew's Mercy SeatAll of Rilla Askew’s books to date have been set in Oklahoma. She was born in the Sans Bois Mountains in the southeastern corner, a fifth generation descendant of southerners who settled in the Choctaw Nation in the late 1800s. Her maternal grandfather was a sharecropper who stayed on the land when the hard times came during the Great Depression, and her paternal grandfather was a coal miner, a carpenter, merchant, and one-time deputy sheriff. The daughter of a coon-hunting Southern Baptist deacon and an independent-minded mom, Askew is the middle of three sisters. She grew up in the oil company town of Bartlesville, where she first encountered the complex forces of race and class that she continues to explore in her fiction. She lived for several years in the Cherokee capital of Tahlequah before relocating to Tulsa, where she graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in theatre performance. In 1980 she moved to New York to pursue an acting career, but she soon turned to writing fiction and went on to study creative writing at Brooklyn College, where she received her MFA in 1989.

Her collection of stories Strange Business received the Oklahoma Book Award in 1993. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of journals and has been selected for Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. Her first novel The Mercy Seat was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and received the Western Heritage Award and the Oklahoma Book Award in 1998. Her novel about the Tulsa Race Riot, Fire in Beulah, received the American Book Award, the Myers Book Award, and was the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma selection for 2007. Askew's most recent novel Harpsong was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Prize and received the Oklahoma Book Award, the Western Heritage Award, the Willa Cather Award from Women Writing the West, and the Violet Crown Award from the Writers League of Texas. She was the recipient of a 2009 Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Askew is married to actor Paul Austin, and they divide their time between Oklahoma, where she currently serves as Artist in Residence at the University of Central Oklahoma, and their home in upstate New York.

photograph of Encyclopedia of OK History and CultureDirector's Award

Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture  edited by Dianna Everett, Jon May, Larry O’Dell, and Linda Wilson  Oklahoma Historical Society

The Center occasionally bestows a Director's Award to special works entered in the competition. This year, the award's committee honored the print version of this one-of-a-kind state reference resource, which is also available online.

Glenda Carlile Distinguished Service Award

Kitty Pittman is head reference librarian and director of the Oklahoma Collection at the Department of Libraries. This award celebrates contributions to the Oklahoma Center for the Book or to literary community of Oklahoma. Kitty is responsible for getting the Center's long-held wish for an online database of Oklahoma Authors off high center and moving forward. She has also contributed years of service to the Oklahoma Center and the Oklahoma Book Awards. Thank you, Kitty!



To see complete list of 2011 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 call 1-800-522-8116 toll free, statewide. In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, call 522-3383.


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