Oklahoma Book Awards

Photo: Cindy Prins / Getty Images

In Short:

Sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book, part of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, the Oklahoma Book Awards were established in 1990 to honor local authors and the literary heritage of the state.  Each year, works are recognized in seven categories: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, young adult, children, design and illustration.  Winners are announced at a ceremony, typically held in early to mid-April, and the following awards are also handed out:

  • Arrell Gibson Award - This lifetime achievement honor is named after a Norman historian and former Oklahoma Center for the Book president. 
  • Ralph Ellison Award - Named after the famed Oklahoma writer of "Invisible Man" and other classics, this is a posthumous honor.


A call for entries is issued each year by the Oklahoma Center for the Book and with a $25 fee, anyone can submit a nomination.  Entries must have an Oklahoma theme, or the artist must live or have lived in the state.  Recent years have featured over 100 nominees, and a list of finalists is announced in February.

2017 Ceremony:

The 28th annual Oklahoma Book Awards are presented Saturday, April 8, 2017 at the Jim Thorpe Museum and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, located at 4040 North Lincoln in Oklahoma City.

Invitations are available online, and the event features book signings and cash bar.

Recent Winners:

Below are lists of winners in recent years.  A full list of past winners is available online.


  • Fiction:  "Three Weeks in Washington" by Norman author Luana Ehrlich
  • Non-fiction:  "The Red River Bridge War: A Texas-Oklahoma Border Battle" by Rusty Williams
  • Poetry: "Strong Medicine" by Sly Alley of Tecumseh
  • Young Adult: "Seeking Cassandra" by Lutricia Clifton
  • Children: "Dust Storm" by Jane Kellips of OKC
  • Design: "4th and Boston: Heart of the Magic Empire" with design by Douglas Miller of Tulsa
  • Illustration: "My Name is James Madison Hemings," illustrated by Terry Widener
  • Ralph Ellison Award: Ralph Marsh
  • Arrell Gibson Award: Dr. George Henderson


  • Fiction:  "The Long and Faraway Gone" - Third novel from Lou Berney
  • Non-fiction:  "The Mercy of the Sky" - Account of the May 20, 2013 from OKC native Holly Bailey
  • Poetry: "Places I Was Dreaming" by Broken Arrow writer Loren Graham
  • Young Adult: "The Boy Who Carried Bricks" by Alton Carter
  • Children: "Bike on, Bear!" by Cynthea Liu
  • Design: "Making Friends Was My Business" with design by Laura Hyde
  • Illustration: "Ilittibaaimpa’: Let’s Eat Together! A Chickasaw Cookbook" with photography by Sanford Mauldin and design by Corey Fetters
  • Ralph Ellison Award: Dr. H. Wayne Morgan
  • Arrell Gibson Award: Diane Glancy


  • Fiction:  "Fatal Enquiry" by Will Thomas
  • Non-fiction:  "A Step Toward Brown v. Board of Education: Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and Her Fight to End Segregation" by Cheryl Elizabeth Brown Wattley
  • Poetry: "Deep August" by Jessica Isaacs
  • Young Adult: "Finders Keepers" by Roy Deering
  • Children: "Chukfi Rabbit’s Big, Bad Bellyache: A Trickster Tale" by Greg Rodgers
  • Design: "A Legacy in Arms," with book design by Julie Rushing and jacket design by Anthony Roberts
  • Illustration: Hannah E. Harrison for "Extraordinary Jane"
  • Ralph Ellison Award: Not Awarded
  • Arrell Gibson Award: Rennard Strickland


  • Fiction:  "Che Guevara’s Marijuana and Baseball Savings and Loan" by Jack Shakely
  • Non-fiction:  "When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory" by Mary Jane Ward
  • Poetry: "Red Dirt Roads" by Yvonne Carpenter, Nancy Goodwin, Catherine McCraw, Clynell Reinschmiedt, and Carol Waters
  • Young Adult: "MOJO" by Rose State College Professor Tim Tharp
  • Children: "Nugget & Fang" by Edmond's Tammi Sauer
  • Design: "Devon," with book design by Jenny Chan and Lisa Yelon with Jack Design and photography by Alan Karchmer and Joe C. Aker
  • Illustration: Jeannie Barbour for "Chikasha Stories Volume Three: Shared Wisdom"
  • Ralph Ellison Award: Not Awarded
  • Arrell Gibson Award: Guthrie-born Alvin O. Turner


  • Fiction:  "Crimes of Redemption" - Debut novel from Oklahoma City author Linda McDonald tells the story of a small town murder.
  • Non-fiction:  "Floyd Patterson: The Fighting Life of Boxing's Invisible Champion" by W.K. Stratton
  • Poetry: "Nocturnes and Sometimes, Even I" by Rose State College English Professor and Oklahoma Poet Laureate Carl Sennhenn
  • Young Adult: "The Immortal Von B." by M. Scott Carter
  • Children: "George: George Washington Our Founding Father" by former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating
  • Design: "The James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection," with book design by Carol Haralson and cover design by Tony Roberts
  • Illustration: Mike Wimmer for "George: George Washington, Our Founding Father"
  • Ralph Ellison Award: Creek poet, journalist, and essayist Alexander Posey
  • Arrell Gibson Award: Tulsa writer Billie Lett


  • Fiction:  "Along the Watchtower" - Debut novel from Edmond author Constance Squires tells the story of a teenage girl using rock music to cope with her military-family life of constant relocation.
  • Non-fiction:  "An American Betrayal: Cherokee Patriots and the Trail of Tears" by Daniel Blake Smith
  • Poetry: "Leaving Holes and Selected New Writings" by Norman's Joe Dale Tate Nevaquaya
  • Young Adult: "The Revenant" by Sonia Gensler
  • Children: "Chikasha Stories, Volume One: Shared Spirit" by Glenda Galvan
  • Design: "The Eugene B. Adkins Collection" with design by Eric Anderson
  • Illustration: "Ilimpa'chi' (Let's Eat!): A Chickasaw Cookbook" with photography by Sanford Mauldin and design by Skip McKinstry
  • Ralph Ellison Award: Not Awarded
  • Arrell Gibson Award: Chandler writer Anna Myers


  • Fiction:  "God's Acres" - Novel by Muskogee author David Gerard is a story told from the perspective of a 6-year old living on a small farm in Missouri.
  • Non-fiction:  "Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History" by S.C. Gwynne
  • Poetry: "Elegy for Trains" by Oklahoma Baptist University professor Benjamin Myers
  • Young Adult: "Portrait of a Generation—The Children of Oklahoma: Sons and Daughters of the Red Earth" by M.J. Alexander
  • Children: "Mostly Monsterly" by Tammi Sauer
  • Design: "Building One Fire" with design by Carol Haralson
  • Illustration: Not Awarded
  • Ralph Ellison Award: Not Awarded
  • Arrell Gibson Award: Rilla Askew