I’ve been reading again.
It led in interesting directions, so I’m hoping you’ll follow my trail.
Okie author Jennifer Latham’s “Dreamland Burning” is written for young adults. It’s the story of two fictional young people narrating the account of a very real event, the Tulsa race riot of the early 1900’s.
Of course, being regional, the location appealed right away. I didn’t know the book’s premise, and once I opened the covers, I was a bit queasy. I vaguely knew about the abomination that happened in Tulsa’s city streets, when whites got mad that blacks existed and decided to gang up and be jerks, in the very most upper levels of jerky-ness that jerks can be.
(I have delicate fingers. My palate can’t stand to verbalize or write the true words that come to mind when the anger this story evokes wells up.)
So insert your favorite incendiary verbiage here, about truly heinous people, and know that racism is the ugliest. And racist packs, fueled by heat and unquestioned loyalty to ignorance, are intolerable.
So, at first, until I knew the true subject matter, I enjoyed the references to familiar Tulsa places as much as I enjoyed meeting Will and Rowan, the two leading teen aged characters. But when their stories kicked into high gear, my heart raced, and I got so involved in what’s-next-what’s-next that the just conclusion came too quickly.
What is even more interesting, is that not only does Latham talk about the atrocities of Tulsa’s racial divide, but Will is part Native American. His grandmother was murdered by evil greedy men, part of another true and horrific state secret, the Osage Indian murders. Native American women were killed because of money, especially that tangled up with oil and mineral rights. David Grann, author of the highly praised “The Lost City of Z,” chronicled the Oklahoma story in a book published in April of this year titled “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
I drove through Pawhuska just a couple of months ago — ironically, it may have been April! — thinking it was a ho-hum, tiny town, its most interesting attribute being that its street signs made me slow down for a couple of miles on the way to my destination, another thriving metropolis of about 50,000 folks, an hour or so further down the trail.
Pawhuska in 2017 did not strike me as eventful in any way, but it certainly was a hotbed of furious — literally furious, unhampered, and evil activity a hundred years ago.
Too much terrible history, too close together, in a state that has never seemed overly large but now seems especially tight quarters to fester so much hate.
Against other Oklahomans.
And current Okies know little to nothing about any of it until a full century later?
Ignorance of history, atop so much hate and violence, equals further abomination.
Read these books. Let’s talk.