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The Oklahoma
Center for the Book

Oklahoma Dept. of
200 NE 18th St
Oklahoma City, OK 73105-3298

(405) 521-2502
(405) 525-7804—FAX

Connie Armstrong,
OCB director

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1996 Oklahoma Book Award Winners

Council Oak Books of Tulsa was awarded medals for books in non-fiction, poetry, and design and/or illustration categories during the seventh annual Oklahoma Book Award ceremony March 9 at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. The awards program is sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. Books written by Oklahomans or about Oklahoma published during 1995 qualify to enter the 1996 competition.


A Very Small Farm, written by Collinsville farmer William Paul Winchester was honored with the non-fiction medal. Winchester writes about life establishing and maintaining a farm; his garden, building his home, caring for his bees, cows and other animals, and the history of his place. Winchester's writing is eloquent; his philosophy, like his lifestyle, simple yet profound. His essays have appeared in Country Journal, Buying America Back, Oklahoma Today, and elsewhere.


Tulsan Francine Ringold won the poetry medal for her book The Trouble With Voices. Ms.Ringold has taught literature, creative writing and theater at the University of Tulsa, in the Oklahoma State Arts in Education and Artist in the Schools programs, at the Oklahoma School of the Deaf, and at the Tulsa Center for the Physically Limited. She lives in Tulsa with her husband, poet Manly Johnson.

Design and Illustration

The third Council Oak winner was Tulsan Kim Doner, illustrator of Green Snake Ceremony, a children's book written by Sherrin Watkins of Okmulgee. Ms. Doner described her feelings when receiving the medal: "This is like writing a letter to a movie star and having them write back!" Ms. Doner visits schools presenting the process of how children's books are made, from the story idea to the art to the finished product.


In the fiction category, retired Southeastern Oklahoma State University professor Billie Letts won the medal for her novel Where The Heart Is. "I listen to the words of Oklahomans; some are still with us, some are gone. But, I'm still listening," Letts said when she received her medal. Where The Heart Is, published by Warner Books, New York, is Letts' first novel. She lives with her husband, Dennis, in Durant.

Children and Young Adult

For the second time, Anna Myers—who lives and teaches in Chandler—won the children and young adult award. The 1996 medal was given for Graveyard Girl, published by Walker Books, New York. Myers won the 1993 award for her book Red Dirt Jessie.

Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award

In addition to the book categories, the Oklahoma Center for the Book honors each year, an Oklahoman for a body of work. The 1996 Arrell Gibson Award, so named for the Norman historian and first president of the Center, was given to historian and biographer John Hope Franklin. The presentation of the Gibson Award was made by the Honorable Hannah Atkins, former Secretary of State. "Dr. Franklin was my first history teacher, and I am honored to present this award to him."

Franklin, who last fall received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, is originally from Rentiesville, Oklahoma, south of Muskogee. He has honorary doctorates from 105 colleges and universities, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Franklin has received prestigious Guggenheim fellowships and is James B. Duke professor emeritus of history at Duke University.

He is author of the critically acclaimed George Washington Williams: A Biography (University of Chicago Press, 1985), Racial Equality in America (University of Chicago Press, 1976), Color and Race (Houghton Mifflin, 1968), The Color Line (University of Missouri Press, 1992), and many other books. His most famous work, From Slavery to Freedom was first published in 1947 and has sold more than 3 million copies.

More than 150 people came to Rudisill Library in Tulsa on March 10 to hear Dr. Franklin deliver a lecture about our lives in the twenty-first century. He said, "History links what was with what is, and what is with what is going to be."Franklin's talk was sponsored by the Tulsa Library Trust and the Oklahoma Center for the Book.

"This country was founded on what Europeans said was the desire for religious freedom, but the religious right doesn't provide for religious freedom today, and we've never had it in this country. The religious persecution of Muslims in the 20th century is related to the religious intolerance of the 19th century, and the 18th century, when this government was formed. And that persecution is carried over from the 17th century and before. This needs to be corrected in the 21st century, when the word 'minority' will take on a whole new meaning. It will mean Europeans and other whites. These will be the minority."

Franklin said "We have problems, but instead of wringing our hands, we must become involved. Things won't change until more than 25 percent of people who are eligible vote. We must get that number up, to 75 percent or more. In the Philippines, that country we perceive as poorer than we are, somehow less sophisticated, in that country 90 percent of the citizenry votes."

Dr. Franklin autographed books for those in attendance for more than an hour after the lecture. He said he always enjoys his trips to Oklahoma, and has managed to come back at least once each year. "But not during Black History Week. Every week is Black History Week!"

To see complete list of 1996 Oklahoma Book Award Finalists go here.


The Oklahoma Center for the Book, sponsor of the Oklahoma Book Award competition, is a non-profit, 501-c-3 organization 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. It is governed by a volunteer board of directors from across the state.

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 more information about the Oklahoma Center for the Book or the Oklahoma Book Award program, contact Connie Armstrong, 200 N.E. 18th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73105; or call 405-522-3383.


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