Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gone West Continued

Hello All!

I am continuing my reading of western award winners--this title was Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. The book won the 2008 Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Short Novel.

This was another "western" that surprised me, as it took place during WWII, and was the story of a Japanese internment camp being built near a small town in Colorado, and the effects it had on the community. This is a very well written, interesting book, told from the viewpoint of a young girl. Rennie Stroud is just becoming a young woman, and the Stroud sugar beet farm is located next to the internment camp. The book covers several years of the Strouds' lives, as they cope with Mrs. Stroud's heart troubles, the results of hiring internment camp detainees for help on the farm, the rape and murder of a neighbor girl who is the same age as Rennie, and the telegram that arrives, telling them that Rennie's brother is missing in action in Europe. Throughout all this, the rhythm of farm life is constant. Sandra Dallas also incorporates quilting into this novel, as she did in The Persian Pickle Club.

From the Western Writers of America website:
The Spur Awards, given annually for distinguished writing about the American West, are among the oldest and most prestigious in American literature. In 1953, when the awards were established by WWA, western fiction was a staple of American publishing. At the time awards were given to the best western novel, best historical novel, best juvenile, and best short story.

Since then the awards have been broadened to include other types of writing about the West*. Today, Spurs are offered for the best western novel (short novel), best novel of the west (long novel), best original paperback novel, best short story, best short nonfiction. Also, best contemporary nonfiction, best biography, best history, best juvenile fiction and nonfiction, best TV or motion picture drama, best TV or motion picture documentary, and best first novel (called The Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award).

Winners of the Spur Awards in previous years include Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves, Glendon Swarthout for The Shootist, and Tony Hillerman for Skinwalker.

This somewhat explains to me why the novels I'm reading are not "westerns' in the sense of the old west, as I originally expected from the Spur Awards. But as I am a recent transplant to Arizona, I am very interested in my new part of the country, and so will continue to read novels about the west, as I am enjoying it very much.

Happy Reading!

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