Dr. Beam celebrates the launch of “Voices of the Heartland II” with her daughter, Amelia. photo by Hana Saad

“Voices from the Heartland II” writers launch anthology

Oklahoma women contributed essays to the compilation edited by TU professor, Dr. Sara Beam.

“Who’s around the campfire of your heart?”

Dr. Sara Beam, one of four editors from “Voices from the Heartland, Volume II,” posed this question to the audience to kick off the book’s launch on Thursday.

The question represents something that was fundamental to the creation of the second volume: the importance of not only being able to tell your own story, but having the support of people who will listen.

This anthology, a collection of essays, poetry and stories written by 38 Oklahoma women, provides a platform for them to do just that. The result is a book that covers serious topics, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty and addiction, through the unique stories these people share.

Dr. Beam explained the importance of the sequel: “We still have the same lack of representation, lack of platform and lack of recognition for people whose lives matter just as much as everyone else’s.”

The representation of diverse women in this anthology are part of what makes the book so special. Not only does this volume incorporate the varied voices of Oklahoman women, but it includes stories from women who do not write full-time. The editors wanted to create a work that would amplify the stories of real Oklahoman women, so they reached out to any and all women who they believed had a story inside them to tell.

At the launch, Apollonia Piña, Ruth Askew Brelsford, Rilla Askew, Dr. Juliet Evusa and Dr. Emily Dial-Driver — the last three who are also co-editors of the anthology — shared excerpts of their stories onstage and talked about their inspiration behind their respective pieces.

The Okie accent, with its familiar cadence, reminiscent of a southern twang that smoothed itself out a little bit, was palatable in each reading, particularly in Askew’s story, creating a familiar feeling for those who grew up in Oklahoma. Dial-Driver’s story had the crowd chuckling with her dry wit, and offered an important reminder: words and stories have power, and people shouldn’t forget that.

The talk also created space for more serious moments of reflection. Piña talked about intergenerational trauma that indigenous people have to deal with as well as her work as an activist. Brelsford discussed her volunteer work with inmates, and Evusa detailed the story of why she immigrated to Oklahoma and her experiences during that process.

A few members in the audience had also written a piece for the anthology, and they were invited to stand up and share what they wrote about after the official talk ended.

This demonstrated the sense of community and encouragement that the contributors and editors have fostered over the duration of the project.

The pieces that these women shared on stage provided just a small sampling of the issues and topics covered in the volume.

Despite this, the ideas the speakers discussed explored such a wide range of ideas.

If you missed this talk, the editors and writers will also be speaking at the Oklahoma Book Festival, which takes place in Oklahoma City at the Boathouse District on Sept. 21.

“Voices from the Heartland, Volume II” is available for purchase at Magic City Books and on Amazon.

Post Author: Hana Saad