Books That Inspire 2008

Rilla Askew

Harpsong is the story of Harlan Singer and Sharon Thompson, newlyweds criss-crossing the uncertain landscape of the Great Plains during the Great Depression. As a native Oklahoman, I am ashamed to admit that a full understanding of our state’s history and its place in the greater fabric of America is something I never gave much thought to. Rilla Askew’s Harpsong changed all that. I heard Rilla Askew give a short reading from her novel last fall, and was immediately motivated to read the rest myself. Just as her character Harlan Singer charmed Sharon Thompson on that hot May morning in 1931, Rilla Askew charmed me with her skill as both historian and storyteller. The beauty and wisdom of her prose helped me to connect to a people and a period in time that might have otherwise remained absent from my mind. Harpsong has inspired me to pursue a greater knowledge of our state’s rich history by giving a voice to folks like Harlan and Sharon, whose stories still resonate today.

Merleyn R. Bell
Art Director
World Literature Today