Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category Reviews Sooner Cinema!

June 28, 2009

Blogger Review

Celluloid Soonerland

28 June 2009 @ 6:18 am 

Larry Van Meter spots an anomaly in a Forties Western:

Unable to find a seat on the train, she is rescued by Jim Gardner, who owns the luxury car at the back of the train. Jim as it turns out is one of the new Oklahoma millionaires, having struck it rich in the oil fields of Sapulpa. He’s also a cad, clear to everyone except this “New Woman.” Gardner takes a shine to Catherine, gives her the nickname “Kitten,” and invites her to get off the train with him in Sapulpa. Now, maybe [director] Albert Rogell wasn’t paying attention during this scene, or maybe he had forgotten his Oklahoma geography, but the train from Cleveland to Kansas City doesn’t stop in Sapulpa. But maybe this is Oklahoma’s fate in the American cinema, an indeterminate place somewhere on the American map.

Which explains, sort of, the premise of Sooner Cinema: Oklahoma Goes to the Movies (Oklahoma City: Forty-Sixth Star Press, 2009), edited by Van Meter, which collects nineteen essays on the image of the Sooner State as portrayed in American film, from the days of silents to the present, with stops at Cimarron, The Grapes of Wrath and The Outsiders, just to name a few.

Telling a tale set in “an indeterminate place” has its advantages: you can make it up as you go along, as Albert Rogell did in 1943 while shooting In Old Oklahoma, which he actually shot in even-older Utah, and nobody will raise a fuss: for the 297 million Americans who don’t live here, Oklahoma could be as remote as Timbuktu. They know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is, well, kinda bland, when it isn’t openly hostile.

Sooner Cinema acknowledges this phenomenon without taking umbrage. Filmmakers tell stories, and sometimes those stories drown out considerations of place: those snowcapped mountains just outside McAlester in True Grit don’t resemble anything you or I have ever seen just outside McAlester. But True Grit’s story wasn’t about Oklahoma so much as it was about the No Man’s Land it was once thought to be in the territorial days — and ultimately, it was about John Wayne, a man bigger than any No Man’s Land ever was. In this context, getting the facts straight about Oklahoma is a secondary, maybe tertiary, consideration. In fact, Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory, a biography of Woody Guthrie, somehow manages not to mention Oklahoma at all.

Then again, being associated with a vague sort of mythology may work to Oklahoma’s advantage. Van Meter notes in his introduction:

[I]s there any Wyoming film that doesn’t show the Grand Tetons? or a Colorado film that doesn’t incorporate the Rockies? or a Hawaii film that doesn’t show a surfer? Oklahoma films aren’t compelled to show the state’s X to prove its Oklahoma-ness.

If you live here, and if you ever expect to have to explain to someone from New Jersey or New Brunswick or New Delhi what it’s like to live in Oklahoma, Sooner Cinema will make your task that much easier: you’ll know the difference between celluloid and reality, and you’ll be able to tell when that difference actually matters. And if this task somehow doesn’t fall to you, you’ll still have the pleasure of discovering some cinematic wonders set practically in your own back yard. If this be mythology, make the most of it.


Territory Tattler Reviews Mingo Creek

February 6, 2009

This review of The Ghost of Mingo Creek has appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Territorial Tattler:

The Ghost of Mingo Creek is a wonderful collection of short, sharp stories. This group of tales can be read and enjoyed by lovers of legends, from teenagers through adults. Oklahoma has a wonderful history of the ethereal and dramatic. Rodgers is a noted storyteller and word weaver.
There are stories of spectral sightings in Tulsa, an Oklahoma Bigfoot, and a doodlebug. A doodlebug was someone who could sense where oil was. This story tells how Uncle Fred passes on the gift and how the boy grows up with it. One tale takes place in Ardmore where the heroine is dared to run around Mr. Apple’s grave, asking if he was home. As a streak of light bolted, all three teens ran with a surprise ending. The Kiamichi County is Choctaw country in the southeastern area of Oklahoma. Blessed with deep isolated woods, this area is still relatively wild and has produced many stories. Out after dark, along the riverbed, a family is chased by something breathing loud and hairy! Could it be a Bigfoot?  During the year in l957 Oklahoma City, a lion was loose. Lee, the local paperboy, out on his route finds more than the wet morning dew. Will anyone believe that he saw that lion?
In other parts of the state there are tales of treasure, monster fishes and even a witch! Along the Wichita Mountains, meeting a treasure-hunting stranger has an interesting outcome for those intent on the “gold.”  Read about the “whopper of a fish story” that Raymond and Robert Wilkinson tell about the Red River monster. A young girl sees an old woman blamed for illness, but later she gets help for her sick grandson from an unlikely source.
All the stories have a wonderful way of weaving the true and the not so true into a fabric of the probable. The tales hold certainly will hold one’s attention. While there is no index, there are notes in the back giving the history or legend these tales refer to. It makes you want to learn more about these Choctaw and local history legends, a must read! — reviewed by Dianne Fallis

Metro Library OKC’s INFO magazine Reviews “IT WASN’T MUCH”

September 2, 2008

The September edition of Oklahoma City’s Metropolitan Library Magazine, INFO, reviewed Jana Hausburg’s It Wasn’t Much with praise for Jana’s ability to pull of “an amazing feat….making her book colorful and entertaining for tweens” (page 6). Copies of INFO are available at all metrolibrary branches in OKC and outlying communities, as well as in a digital format at

What educators are saying

July 31, 2008

“I think this book is a real must have for the reading program in the elementary and middle school. Having been a former elementary teacher, this book will capture the student’s imagination from start to finish. The text is interesting and the lay out is very catchy. Currently, a professor in teacher education, I can state that this is the kind of material that both in service as well as pre service teachers could truly benefit from in the classroom. It Wasn’t Much, Ten True Tales of Oklahoma Heroes should be in every classroom in Oklahoma.”

Tim Campbell, Ed.D.
Professor of Elementary/Reading Ed., College of Education and Prof. Studies — University of Central Oklahoma

“You have put your heart and soul into your book, which shows in its heart warming stories, portraits, and illustrations.”

Zahra Karimipour, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Business — Oklahoma City University

What readers are saying

July 31, 2008

I asked readers to let me know what they think of the book, when they’ve got time.  

Robert A. Bish, a former social worker for DHS (now retired) and a busy community volunteer, took time to write the following about It Wasn’t Much:

“Ms. Hausburg presents a needed corrective to the chronicler’s obsession with the famous and powerful. Her profiles of obscure and underrecognized Oklahomans provide proof than an individual motivated by courage and convictions can make a difference. The “heroes” run the gamut of professions and conditions. You’ll discover a martyred priest, a determined librarian, an activist grandmother, and a brave POW, to list a few.

Her narratives are supplemented with word definitions and brief summaries of pertinent historic movements, and are especially targeted to enlighten an adolescent readership. After reading this book, I have a much greater appreciation for the contributions of those whose heroic deeds are done without the glare of publicity.”

Other reader testimonials:

“I loved your book! I read a chapter every day and finished it in a week!” — Valerie Phan, age 10

“Great reading for young readers who are proud to be Oklahomans” — Cheryl Mann, classic car enthusiast and member of First Families of the Twin Territories.

“I sat down and was going to read one or two chapters and was finished before I knew it.  The stories will inspire and captivate readers of all ages.  I look forward to Ms. Hausburg’s next book!”–Pam Buchanan, Information Technologist.

Great Review of It Wasn’t Much for Homeschoolers

July 22, 2008

Cindy Downes, of Oklahoma Homeschool, has reviewed It Wasn’t Much on her website at http://

Here’s the gratifying gist of her endorsement:

Although It Wasn’t Much is recommended for juvenile readers, I thoroughly enjoyed it myself. It makes learning history as easy as eating candy! The stories are short and easy to read, but they are packed with adventure, heroic exploits, historical facts, and
inspiration. There are ten biographies of not-so-well known Oklahoma heroes such as Rosemary Hogan who was a nurse … in the Philippines and a POW, Fern Holland, an Oklahoma Cherokee, who joined the Peace Corp and was killed while serving in Iraq; Rufino Rodrigues who rescued 150 miners at the risk of his own life; and Robbie Riesner, from Tulsa, who kept up the morale of his fellow Vietnam POWs from the time he was captured in 1965 until the time he was released in 1973. Included in each chapter is more information about the setting of the story, definitions of difficult terms, suggestions for additional reading, a list of Internet resources related to the topic, and a list of places to visit in Oklahoma that compliment the story. And finally, on the Web site, there are additional pages of study resources, discussion questions, writing exercises, and teacher resources. A lot for your money!

A Blog Review of Oklahoma Heroes on Oklahoma Women’s Network Blog

July 22, 2008

Women’s advocate and lobbyist Jean Warner has commended “It Wasn’t Much” for its attention to five heroic women on her Oklahoma Women’s Network Blog at

Here’s an excerpt:

“Forty-Sixth Star Press, a wonderful new Oklahoma publishing company, focuses on telling Oklahoma’s story. As part of their “Oklahoma Portraits Series,” they recently published It wasn’t Much: Ten True Tales of Oklahoma Heroes by Jana Hausburg with portraits by Cheryl Delany. I loved this book! Aimed at a young audience, this collection of short biographies tells of ten Oklahomans who have contributed in big as well as small ways to the state, the nation and the world. I am delighted that half the Oklahomans featured are women. Those women are Rosemary Hogan (the angel of Bataan), Fern Holland (who was assassinated for her work on women’s rights in Iraq), Bartlesville’s gutsy librarian and civil rights leader Ruth Brown, environmental activist Carrie Dickerson, and Oklahoma City Red Cross volunteer Felicia Daugherty…Oklahoma historians, parents, teachers and librarians, you will want to add this book to your collection.”

Sunday Oklahoman Reviews It Wasn’t Much

July 8, 2008

A review of It Wasn’t Much: True Tales of Ten Oklahoma Heroes appeared in the “Living” Section of the Sunday edition of The Oklahoman on July 6th, 2008 (8D). The review praises Jana Hausburg for being able to draw young readers into biographies of Oklahomans, a kind of non-fiction not always amenable to their tastes!

Review of It Wasn’t Much on

June 27, 2008

Book Dweeb has reviewed Oklahoma Portrait Series title, It Wasn’t Much: True Tales of Ten Oklahoma Heroes. Positive words for author Jana Hausburg’s “energetic prose” can be found here!