Admit it, you’re singing the song in your head right now, aren’t you?
O—klahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
The Rogers and Hammerstein musical forever seared the state of Oklahoma into our brains. But besides a few stories of the Oklahoma land rush here and there, it isn’t a usual setting for many novels. It’s not quite as romantic as Texas. Not quite as prairie as Kansas.
My grandfather was born in Oklahoma. He met my grandmother there. They lived in Oklahoma until my mother’s girlhood, when they moved to Ft. Worth, Texas. (Thus, I am a Texas girl.) So with all that family history just a few hundred miles north of where I’ve spent my life, I found myself wanting to write a story with an Oklahoma setting.
It seemed natural to include academics in such a story, for my grandparents both received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in the 1930s, and my grandmother’s uncle was president of Northeastern State Teacher’s College (now Northeastern State University) from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s.
Unlike my family history in Oklahoma, I chose set my story firmly in the years of the Great War. An interesting time period, not only in America, but also for Oklahoma. They’d only achieved statehood ten years earlier, only been legally settled a couple of decades before that. So while their population now boasted an influx of cultured and educated people from more eastern regions, the hard-bitten homesteader and his decedents remained, either farmers or cowmen, such as those we find in Oklahoma! And with over 50,000 soldiers coming through Ft. Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma, for training between 1917 and 1918, the Great War truly came to their doorstep in the form of soldiers.
Then, of course, there are the tornadoes that often ravage the state. And a rich history of high school and college sporting events. I discovered that, like any other place, it has a rich and varied history, which, of course, can’t all fit into one novel. And so I picked a little here, a little there. A bit of family lore, a bit of state history. And Playing by Heart was born.
- Do you have any favorite books set in Oklahoma? Please share!
- Anne will be giving away a copy of Playing By Heart, so be sure to leave a comment to enter!
Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.
With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn’t even consider those real subjects!
Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She’s returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.
However, the more time she spends around Jewel’s family, the girls’ basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she’s given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she’d expected.
Anne Mateer has a passion for bringing history to life through fiction. She is the author of 4 historical novels as well as a contemporary short story, which can be found in this season’s Cup of Christmas Cheer II. Anne and her husband live in Texas and are the parents of three young adults.