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The Third Six-Pack
Nominations for the Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma Book for 2006

Whose Names Are Unknown
by Sanora Babb
Foreward by Lawrence R. Rogers
University of Oklahoma Press

2004
pp. 288
hardcover
ISBN 0806135794
$29.95

"Seems queer that just at a time the world is hardest to make a living in, nature turns on us too"

Babb was uniquely qualified to tell the story of migrant Okies—she spent her youth on farms in the heartland, and worked with refugee farmers in the FSA camps of 1930s California. Random House editor Bennett Cerf was set to publish this “exceptionally fine” novel in 1939, but then shelved it when Steinbeck’s similarly-themed Grapes of Wrath swept the country. For more than 60 years it enjoyed a reputation as an underground classic among scholars, but has now been recovered for all to discover.

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courtesy of The University of Oklahoma Press

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Reviews

"As vibrant and timely today as when it was begun in the migrant camps of California, Sanora Babb's first novel details the pride, suffering, and resilience of uprooted Anglo farmers who confront economic and ecological disaster. Resisting forces within society that devalue and marginalize them, the declassed refugees work together to form enduring communities."
Douglas Wixson
author of Worker-Writer in America: Jack Conroy and the Tradition of Midwestern Literary Radicalism, 1898-1990.

"Sanora Babb's Whose Names Are Unknown has enjoyed an underground reputation for many years among those scholars who have known of its existence. Babb is a skillful artist who identified wholeheartedly with the ordeal of the dispossessed during the 1930s. The recovery of her novel is a miraculous gift that will play an important part in future reconsiderations of mid-century U.S. literature."
Alan M. Wald
author of Exiles from a Future Time: The Forging of the Mid-Twentieth-Century Literary Left

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About the Author

Sanora Babb, born in 1907 in the Oklahoma Territory, is the author of five books, as well as numerous essays, short stories, and poems that were published in literary magazines alongside the work of William Saroyan, Ralph Ellison, and Katherine Anne Porter.

Babb bio from the University of Nebraska Press site: Born in Oklahoma in 1907 to a restless small-town baseball player, gambler, and baker and his long-suffering wife, Sanora Babb and her sister lived as children on the arid and wind-swept prairie of eastern Colorado as their parents struggled vainly to homestead. As an adult, Babb worked for small-town newspapers and a farming magazine, as a country schoolteacher and as a college writing teacher. During the Great Depression she worked in the California fields setting up government camps for migrant workers. She also traveled extensively with her cinematographer husband James Wong Howe, living on film locations throughout the world. Babb mined and transformed all of this and more in her novels and stories.

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