SEPTEMBER 17, 2007

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Book by four Rogers State University professors chronicles
Oklahoma women’s lives

A collection of personal essays by 50 Oklahoma women – edited by four female professors at Rogers State University – has been published by the University of Oklahoma Press and is now available online and at bookstores across the state.

“Voices from the Heartland” – the creation of RSU professors Dr. Carolyn Taylor, Dr. Emily Dial-Driver, Carole Burrage (former RSU professor) and Dr. Sally Emmons-Featherston – is a compilation of essays focusing on women’s contributions to Oklahoma’s recent past. It records defining moments in women’s lives, whether surviving the Oklahoma City bombing or surviving abuse, and represents a wide range of professions, lifestyles and backgrounds “to show how extraordinary lives have grown from the seeds of ordinary girlhoods,” Taylor said.

The book is an official Oklahoma Centennial Project as designated by the Oklahoma Centennial Commission.

All four editors have contributed essays to the book. Taylor recalls the inspiration she received from two heroines she never met while attempting to pass tough legislation as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Dial-Driver wonders who will pick up the mantle of matriarch when her mother dies. Burrage writes about her two sons, their difficult births and their obvious perfection – through the eyes of a mother. And Emmons-Featherston recalls battling with anorexia and emerging with a healthy and rewarding lifestyle. In addition, Julie Carson, a Claremore resident and a state regent, reflects on her life as a southpaw.

The book also features essays by former Cherokee Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller, Oklahoma first lady Kim Henry, novelist Billie Letts, prima ballerina Maria Tallchief and OU basketball coach Sherri Coale, among many others.

“We brainstormed about Oklahoma women that we knew or knew of who have interesting stories to tell,” Taylor said. “We wanted to make sure that our contributions were a mix of well-known and new voices, and we wanted a diverse representation of professions, races, perspectives, lifestyles and backgrounds.”

The authors share their personal reflections on finding balance as they look back on defining moments in their lives, mull over what they wish they had learned sooner and convey the wisdom they’ve unearthed on their journeys thus far. Touching on topics from adultery to left-handedness, from losing children to losing perspective, the essays speak reveal what it means to be an American woman today, Taylor said.

Inspiration for the book began when the four women expressed dismay for the stubborn social problems facing Oklahomans, particularly women, and gratification at the emergence of female leaders in the state at the same time.

“We were struck by the paradox of the grim statistics we’ve heard about Oklahoma women – high rates of poverty, incarceration, divorce, and teen pregnancy and low rates of women in elected positions and other professions, and the fact that Oklahoma has also produced so many women of outstanding achievement and character. We wanted to somehow begin a dialogue to reconcile this obvious disconnect,” Dial-Driver said. “We personally knew of many success stories and role models, yet those stories rarely made the evening news. There needed to be a vehicle for stories of real Oklahoma women making a positive impact on our society so that people could learn what was possible in our state.”

All profits from the book will be directed to the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma to fund an endowment which provides a permanent source of grants investing in the economic self-sufficiency of women and brighter futures for girls.

The editors of the book will appear at a panel discussion and book signing at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the Stratton Taylor Library on the RSU campus in Claremore. The event is sponsored by the Claremore Reads organization. Several other book signings and similar events will be held at locations across the state this fall, including a launch party for the book at the Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City on Oct. 26 and a presentation and book signing at the Red Dirt Book Festival in Shawnee on Nov. 6.

“Voices from the Heartland” is available at the RSU Bookstore on the RSU campus in Claremore, at bookstores across the state and online at amazon.com and www.voicesfromtheheartland.com.

Contact: Brent Ortolani, RSU, (918) 343-7771