Rilla Askew's Latest Novel Mixes Reality with Fiction, and Illegal Immigration with Rural Oklahoma

Jan 20, 2014

(Please note: This interview first aired about a year ago.) We are happy to welcome the acclaimed author (and fifth-generation Oklahoman) Rilla Askew back to our show. Askew received a 2009 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and she is a three-time recipient of the Oklahoma Book Award. Her latest novel, "Kind of Kin," is now being published in paperback; it first appeared in hardback in early 2013. Askew joins us to chat about this work. As she has noted (at her own website) about this book, and about her efforts as a writer more generally: "Most of my fiction is set in Oklahoma, but I don't consider myself a regional writer. America is my subject, Oklahoma the canvas. As a novelist, what I'm interested in is demythologizing, de-romanticizing America's master narrative, the half-truth comfort stories we tell ourselves.... In 2007, Oklahoma enacted one of the earliest and toughest anti-illegal immigration laws in the nation. I was troubled by the law, seeing in it a parallel with old ways, our history of legislated bias (the first laws enacted by the Oklahoma legislature after statehood were Jim Crow laws), and it seemed to me that I could see the same distrustful climate, the same scape-goating, that had led to the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921. Why does this happen here, I wondered, in this place that prides itself on having so many Christian citizens and leaders? I wrote this new novel to try to find out."