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A classic in contemporary Oklahoma literature, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s Red Dirt unearths the joys and ordeals of growing up poor during the 1940s and 1950s. In this exquisite rendering of her childhood in rural Oklahoma, from the Dust Bowl days to the end of the Eisenhower era, the author bears witness to a family and community that still cling to the dream of America as a republic of landowners.

 

From the Back Cover

In this exquisite rendering of her childhood in rural Oklahoma, from the Dust Bowl days to the end of the Eisenhower era, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz bears witness to a family and community which still clings to the dream of America as a republic of landowners.

About the Author

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, a writer, teacher, historian, and social activist, is Professor Emerita of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay, and author or editor of numerous scholarly articles and books, including the award-winning An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, as well as two other memoirs.

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4.2 out of 54.2 out of 5
30 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Susi M
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
What it was like to grow up poor in Oklahoma in the 1940’s and 1950’s
Reviewed in the United States on August 27, 2021
This is a detailed view into what it meant to grow up poor in the Oklahoma of the 1940’s and beyond. Luckily, the author was sharp and developed her ambition despite her financial woes. Great and impactful read!
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Garrett
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I hate reading and loved this book
Reviewed in the United States on June 1, 2018
I actually had to read this for a class. I hate reading but it held my attention and I ended up keeping the book rather than reselling it.
One person found this helpful
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David J. Gustafson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Made sense out of the feelings I have had for a long time
Reviewed in the United States on November 26, 1998
This has made sense of many feelings I have had about American History we have missed in our schools. It fills in the gaps left out by our white education system. My ancestry is from the same people. They did not stay among the poor but the traits brought out by the... See more
This has made sense of many feelings I have had about American History we have missed in our schools. It fills in the gaps left out by our white education system. My ancestry is from the same people. They did not stay among the poor but the traits brought out by the author rang true. I studied riots in America and never knew the reason for them or who the rioters were nor their cause. I feel blessed not having to have gone through these trials and thank God for his blessings and my upbringing. This does not mean we can take others for granted and understand their purpose and the contribution they have made. This book shows us to respect all our neibors alike. I think being ones self is a key here, they had no choice, and those that do are not honest with feelings just as the proud poor hide it from the rich. A paradox in being ones self, there is no profit in a lie, but it makes living bearable at times. Thanks for the good read and the realization it has made in my life. Dave...
6 people found this helpful
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Mary G. Pettey
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Learned more Oklahoma history than I did in class!
Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2010
I lived in Oklahoma for the first 38 years of my life.
I never learned the real history of Oklahoma until I read this book.
A good story and interesting, my other friends and family from Oklahoma are very interested, too.
3 people found this helpful
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David Sprehe
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Four Stars
Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2016
Loved the book. I''m an Oklahoman myself so it was very meaningful.
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Howard Maggard
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United States on June 12, 2016
Close to Home
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William Sollner
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Four Stars
Reviewed in the United States on October 8, 2014
perceptive and entertaining...resonates with my own experience growing up in Kansas at the same time.
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LACAR
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
WHAT AN ANGRY WOMAN! BUT DON''T BLAME IT ON OKLAHOMA
Reviewed in the United States on October 30, 2015
Wow, I hardly know where to start. It was a little unsettling to read this book while realizing we are contemporaries but the way we see the world couldn''t be more opposite. I would have rated it even lower except that it is well-written and it does evoke emotion. There are... See more
Wow, I hardly know where to start. It was a little unsettling to read this book while realizing we are contemporaries but the way we see the world couldn''t be more opposite. I would have rated it even lower except that it is well-written and it does evoke emotion. There are so many similarities in our lives that it''s spooky! I grew up about three years behind her, about the same distance from OkC east as she was west. It''s crazy that one of my sons is now the principal at Piedmont High School and lives in Yukon. Another son lives in Midwest City in one of those houses she talks about having been built by the unnamed contractor (I can give you the man''s name if you want, don''t know why she leaves it out . . . oh, and he gave hundreds of jobs to returning WW II vets). My family is Scots-Irish. They were farmers, sometimes "on the halves" but when they didn''t have land they picked cotton or worked for the railroad or in the oil field or grew sorgham to sell molasses. They were poor, money wise, but had each other. My dad was from a family of ten ( two died early of disease) and my mother from a family of eight. My parents dated for five years, not getting married because Daddy was helping support his parents working at a filling station, seven days a week for forty cents an hour. My mother borrowed $40 from an uncle and went to Edmond to Central State Teacher''s College. She kept house for families for room and board and managed to earn a teaching certificate. After a semester of teaching they got married but she went back to her school up by Enid and he lived in the back of a store.
I was born a year later, not long before the war started. Daddy got on the "gang" at Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. (another comparison to the author!), with a raise to 45 cents an hour plus overtime. They bought a little two bedroom house which they lived in until Mom passed away five years ago and I''ve now lived in the same house my husband and I bought in 1969 for $11,000. Reading this writer''s story, although so many of the things are familiar, our worlds could not have been any different. It was never an issue with us if we were rich or poor. Daddy washed and waxed cars on weekends and Mom delivered telephone books, making $7 so she could buy herself
a winter coat. Another comparison found in the book . . . our family car for about ten years was a 1949 Ford. For this writer to BLAME
her bad life on a state and the people in it is ridiculous. I''m sorry her mother had a bad life. I''m sorry it carried on to their family. But they could have lived in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin or any other such place and with the way they were all so dysfunctional it would have been the same. It''s just that her only knowledge is of Oklahoma so she insinuates the "Okie" background is what ruined a "normal life" for her. For anyone else reading this, we in Oklahoma do not call ourselves Okies . . . that designation is held for those from this part of
the country who "ran away" to California. We have a saying here (actually I think it''s Will Rogers who first coined the phrase), when the Okies moved to California, it raised the IQ of both states. I wonder if the writer realizes how many times she uses the word "rich." And it always refers to money, not just a rich life. Somehow she gets the idea that if someone is successful and has "stuff" that they''re the enemy. How sad. Why does that matter so much to her? I have a feeling that the writer accidentally or intentionally embellished some of her stories. There are gaps and misconceptions that don''t fit timelines. I KNOW Ok Nat''l Gas company had medical insurance for their
employees during the time she said they didn''t because my mother had surgery and I took the papers to her in the hospital to fill out.
She can say her prostitute friend "serviced" the entire OU football team if she wants to but I''d say that''s not only ridiculous but basically impossible considering at that time there were about 100 players on the team. But it makes a good story. I could go on but there''s one in particular that I must clarify . . . well, just flat out deny. My family are fifth generation members of the church of Christ. When she describes the service she supposedly attended in San Antonio it''s totally inaccurate. I''ve been to services all the way from Moline
Illinois to Midland TX, including San Antonio. We do not have musical instruments (as per the scriptures) but I have NEVER been to or even heard of a church that did not have singing. In fact, the churches of Christ are widely known for their congregational singing and that goes back well into the 1920''s. In fact, I have song books from that era and heard my grandfather talk of going to a singing school in Waco TX held by L.O. Sanderson in the 1940''s. I also have never been to or heard of a congregation that divided the men from the women. I do think, though, it''s possible that there could have been a "maverick" congregation in San Antonio where she attended. But
either she''s mixed up, has a faulty memory or just thought it would add to her "woe is me" life story. Reading this book has been quite
helpful. I''d always wondered how these angry people got to be that way. Reading her book all I see is how she blames her miserable life on everybody and everything else. She was so easily swayed by one person or book or idea, nobody liked her, she was ugly because she was part Indian, or whatever. If she''d just been rich then she would have been happy. Good grief, no wonder she had migraines. I hope she''s better and has forgiven her parents and all the others who wronged her. That''s pretty cathartic.
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