Newspaper reports from 1935, a march to the courthouse steps and the debut of an award-winning local writer’s novel will all be a part of a special event Saturday in McAlester.

“Harpsong,” the third in a trilogy of works about Oklahoma by Rilla Askew, is being published by the University of Oklahoma press in April. It follows “Fire in Beulah,” an account of the Tulsa Race Riot and the 2007 “Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma” selection, and “The Mercy Seat,” which examines Native American themes.

The author will be on hand at a special 9 a.m. Dutch treat breakfast at The Meeting Place, 104 E. Choctaw Ave., to discuss the research and writing of the novel. Copies of the book will be available. The event is sponsored by McAlester Public Library.

Local historian Steve Adams will also give a presentation about McAlester newspaper reports of the 1935 “hunger siege” at the Pittsburg County Courthouse, an event which figures prominently in the novel. Askew did much of the research about that event at the library here.

“We are also seeking local people who remember the siege, or who know of family stories about the event,” said Head Librarian Christine Sauro. “We hope to include their stories in the program.”

Following the breakfast, those attending will march to the steps of the Courthouse at 10 a.m. to hear a reading from “Harpsong.” In case of inclement weather, the event will stay downtown.

Askew, a Southeast Oklahoma native, now divides her time between the Sooner State and New York.

“Oklahoma’s brief, violent history is a microcosm of all that’s taken place on the North American continent for the past 500 years…the drama of the three races has dominated Oklahoma’s story, as it has dominated America’s story,” Askew said.

Her latest book tells the story of “Harlan Singer,” a folk hero inspired by characters such as Pretty Boy Floyd, Woody Guthrie and Ned Christie. At one point in the hero’s travels, he joins the poverty-stricken miners in the McAlester siege.

Askew has described the book as “what happened among the Okies who stayed home.” She said she was inspired to write the book after hearing Arlo Guthrie lead a crowd of Oklahomans in singing “This Land Is Your Land” at the Woody Guthrie Festival.

The author said she felt “a deep love for the people that I come from and deep love of the Oklahoma character.”

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