March 22, 2016 12:00AM
Award-winning American novelist and short story writer Rilla Askew will read from her works at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, in the Miller Theater in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at Pittsburg State University. The event is sponsored by the Department of English Distinguished Visiting Writers Series, the Women’s Studies Council and the Student Fee Council and is free and open to the public.
Askew was born in the Sans Bois Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma and grew up in Bartlesville. She earned a BFA in theater performance from the University of Tulsa before moving on to study creative writing at Brooklyn College where she earned an MFA.
Askew, who was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame in 2003, has published five novels and her essays and short fiction have appeared in Tin House, TriQuarterly, Nimrod, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Her story “The Killing Blanket” was selected for Prize Stories 1993: The O. Henry Awards.
Askew's first novel, “The Mercy Seat,” was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dublin IMPAC Prize, was a Boston Globe Notable Book, and received the Oklahoma Book Award and the Western Heritage Award in 1998. In 2002, her second novel, “Fire in Beulah,” about the Tulsa race riot, received the American Book Award and the Myers Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. Askew’s third novel, “Harpsong,” is set in 1930’s Oklahoma. “Harpsong” received the Oklahoma Book Award, the Western Heritage Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, and the Violet Crown Award from the Writers League of Texas in 2008. Her novel about state immigration laws, “Kind of Kin,” was published by Ecco in 2013.
Although most of her writing is set in Oklahoma, Askew said she doesn’t consider herself a regional writer.
“America is my subject, Oklahoma the canvas,” Askew wrote in her biography. “Oklahoma's brief, violent history is a microcosm of all that’s taken place on the North American continent for the past five hundred years - turned inside out, foreshortened, intensified. From the tragedy of the Trail of Tears to the frenzy of the white land runs, from the hope in the all-black towns that sprang up in Oklahoma when it was still the free “Injun Territory” toward which Huck Finn sets out at the end of his Adventures, to the ultimate devastation of the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921, the drama of the three races has dominated Oklahoma's story--as it has dominated America’s story.”