Graceful is a mystery to Althea, and in the opening chapters to the reader as well. Why is her inner life so closed off from Althea? The relationship between Graceful and Althea dominates the book, and yet they seem never to fully know one another. How does their relationship reflect relations between African Americans and white Americans in this country, both in the past and in the present? In what ways and where do Althea and Graceful reverse roles? Throughout the novel Althea seems to be nearly obsessed with Graceful. What does she want from her? Early in the book we learn that the women have the same family name, Whiteside, yet the reason for this is never spelled out in the book.
What are the implications of this ambiguity? Does one have the sense that Althea and Graceful are literal kin or, as in the case of many who bear the same name, distant or metaphorical kin? How is their shared name a commentary on the legacy of slavery? Yet he, too, is an enigmatic character. What drives him to do the things he does? In what ways do his intentions and the driving force inside him change as the story progresses?
How do their stories contrast, reflect one another? What incidents shape each of them? How does each behave during the riot? Locate and discuss the various incidents of twinning in the book, the paired, reflective narrative threads. How are the many pairings alike or different?
In an arresting examination of race and heritage, Askew (The Mercy Seat) mixes historical fact with compelling fiction. From the ominous opening scene to the. Fire in Beulah blends historical fact with fictional characters and events in a vivid, unblinking examination of heritage and race. The last section, Fire, tells the story of the Tulsa Race Riot itself. All of Rilla Askew’s books to date—Strange Business (), The Mercy Seat.
What do they signify? There are three birthing scenes in Fire in Beulah. Discuss the implications of the three births in relation to their place in the novel and to one another. What might be the significance of this trinity in contrast to the pairing structure that dominates the book?
Iola Tiger serves much as the Greek chorus served in early drama, and indeed she complains early on: Why is her voice in the novel? What do each of these symbolize? Where do the references come from? Franklin bears witness to much of the riot. Seeing the aftermath, he stands in the street wondering: This was Tulsa, Oklahoma; this was America. It made no sense. Discuss possible answers to these questions. How does the novel seem to answer the questions? The older girls are not the friendliest of mother hens on the Earth, and in fact, they can be viewed as cross and bossy.
After this, Estalee spent hours feeding the cow. Each of the sisters have exhausted their responsibilities in feeding the orphaned calf. At eleven years old, Althea is at an ornery stage of her life where she wants to be noticed by her sisters. Instead, she is upset she is the middle child. This means she receives little attention from her mother and sisters. With the new calf and baby sibling, Althea realizes that she must give up an identity she sees for herself. In the first chapters of Fire in Beulah, Althea has no individual identity. Living by Deep Fork River, what future will Althea have except to grow up marrying a local man and sewing clothes for her children?
This does not happen as a wise woman of the Creek tribe is present for the birth. As the wind changes outside, so does the atmosphere inside the upstairs bedroom. Rachel and Althea are smeared in blood. The Creek woman makes a point of addressing the fact that there is much blood on the rug by Rachel. At this point, her narration does not go into detail that Althea has dropped Japeth — the brother — on his head but is saved.
This information is revealed much later in the novel as the drama unfolds. Why would Althea not want a boy to be born in the world? In the s, men are not common as, say furniture. Furniture stays, men do not. Father has left on one of his business endeavors. When baby Japeth is born, Rachel sees his black tongue and turns away in disgust. In a later narrative, the Creek woman revealed that evil was born in the world. As men, they partake in the worst race riots in Tulsa. Neither one are survivors of the evil force. The connection Althea feels toward Graceful is of sisterhood.
Father has brought back nice items for his family. She gets to imagine her mother taking the time to put her hair in braids, go on Mother-daughter walks, and make memories. I encourage everyone to read Fire in Beulah. I read Fire in Beulah cover to cover in one night.
Apr 15, Martha rated it it was amazing. This stand alone great book, published in , is a must read for anyone. But it is especially poignant for people who was reared in or are currently living in Oklahoma. This is the story of the relationship between an oil wildcatter's wife, Althea, and her housemaid, Graceful. This 's historical novel takes place around northeastern and central Oklahoma leading up to the Tulsa Race Riots of A truly sad and pathetic story of greed, hate, mistrust, lawlessness and redemption. Stories l This stand alone great book, published in , is a must read for anyone.
Stories like this beg the question, "How can human beings treat one another with such atrocity and still consider themselves human? Dec 29, Janice rated it it was amazing Shelves: Rilla Askew is a wonderful and powerful writer, even when building a story around ugly pieces of our history.
In this book, she tells of early 20th century Oklahoma, with the boom of the oil industry, and the racial tensions that culminate in the race riots of Tulsa, in The central figures in this story are Althea Whiteside, seemingly well-to-do wife of an oil speculator, and Graceful, her black maid. Although this book takes place in Oklahoma, the incidents recounted are reminiscent of ou Rilla Askew is a wonderful and powerful writer, even when building a story around ugly pieces of our history.
Although this book takes place in Oklahoma, the incidents recounted are reminiscent of our shared history, as lynchings and racial violence occurred in many towns and cities all over the country. Although in many ways disturbing, this is a beautifully written book.
Feb 12, Kirsten Tautfest rated it liked it. This was my second read through of this book. I have since the first reading of it praised it as an eye opener into the dark oily gritty side of Oklahoma history. However after my second read through the characters to me come off as flat and the POV jumps. There are text type changes which is probably why there is no Kindle version of this book or large print which is a shame for older readers.
But even then, I'd like to know who is speaking on a first person shift from a third person omniscent POV. This is a fictionalized account of the Tulsa race riots in While not a genre I'd typically go for, I picked up this book and was immediately hooked. Askew's writing is haunting and mesmerizing; from the first sentence you sense the impending doom. Jan 29, Cheryl rated it really liked it.
Vivid detail, captivating, horrifying. A necessary exploration of race, sex, history, and violence. This reviewer said it best. Jan 25, Stephanee rated it liked it. I read this last year for the Oklahoma Centennial. It was a good way to find out some of the history of Tulsa, but at times hard to plow through.
I had hoped to see the family connection or not as the white employer and the black maid shared the same family name. Kirkus Reviews calls Most American "An eloquently thoughtful memoir in essays. Needless to say, I would recommend this to everyone. She is married to actor Paul Austin and they divide their time between Oklahoma, where she teaches at the University of Oklahoma, and their home in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Both, highly recommended novels for fans of gritty, literary-astute southern-fiction. I never cared so much about the weather until I moved here.
Parts of it are intensely boring, however, overall not a bad book if you are into Oklahoma authors and historical fiction. Nov 30, Stephanie rated it it was amazing. All it was cracked up to be. Had me in the first page and a half! I was kind of tired of historical fiction, I thought. Can't wait to read the rest of her books. Thanks for the referral, Susan! Aug 21, Jan Cole rated it really liked it Shelves: This was a great book, although complicated. It tells the story of a black woman and a white woman living in Tulsa in the 20's just before the race riot. Graceful works for Althea as a maid and while Althea often isn't kind to her, she desperately needs Graceful.
The story has rich language of the early oilfield and terms I haven't heard in a long time were used to describe drilling new holes looking for oil. Althea comes from poverty, but has hidden that secret well and is now the wife of a wea This was a great book, although complicated. Althea comes from poverty, but has hidden that secret well and is now the wife of a wealthy oilman. The story climaxes during the race riot and it is as horrific as one would imagine.
I thought I would never get through that part.
This is our next book discussion book for Let's Talk About it, Oklahoma. I can't wait to hear what our scholar's take on some of the symbolism within the story is, and the group's thoughts on various events. I'm glad I read it, although I did have to keep plugging away because it is a very dense story. This was a very good book, that left me breathless in a lot of places. May 05, Susan rated it did not like it. This was very disappointing. I had expected it to be about the Tulsa race riots but it was really about race.
I didn't find it to be well written either, it was difficult to read and even understand what was happening in several cases. Jul 06, Laurie rated it it was amazing Shelves: This book was hard to read but worth it. The stories of Althea, an oil man's wife, Graceful, her black maid and Iola, a freed woman with mineral rights are woven together in a slow burn that leads to a terrible climax. An important book dealing with race in the US and specifically Oklahoma.
Jul 03, Aubrey rated it liked it. Kind of wish it had gone into more detail about the Tulsa Race Riots and the fall-out from that, but otherwise a good book. Feb 14, Joyce rated it it was amazing. WEll, there is a lot of history as well as a gripping story of the two main characters. It is tense, it is painful, it feels true. Oct 09, Madeline rated it really liked it Shelves: I haven't read that many books about Oklahoma, and the part of the state where I live is probably pretty different from the places around Tulsa where this one's set, so take this with a grain of salt, but: I never cared so much about the weather until I moved here.
It matters so much. Fire in Beulah is maybe not the book to read if you're looking for a minute account of the Tulsa Race Riot. Its foc I haven't read that many books about Oklahoma, and the part of the state where I live is probably pretty different from the places around Tulsa where this one's set, so take this with a grain of salt, but: Its focus is, instead, personal and individual. Actually, it has some pretty deliberate callbacks to Gone With the Wind , but there is something charming about that book - Fire in Beulah has no interest in charm.
It's almost relentlessly literary, histrionic and grim, odd, replete with sensory detail. I wish it were a slightly different book, probably, but it's still rather a good one. Oct 05, Pat rated it it was ok. Rilla Askew is an extremely talented and visionary writer;she is proud of being an Oklahoman and has set herself the task of telling the myriad stories of her state's origins, in the multiple voices of all its peoples,whites,blacks,Native American,Latino,etalia.
As she proved in The Mercy Seat, she knows how to inhabit the dreams and sensibilities of people of color and alternate ethnicity. Her descriptive ability rivals the greatest American authors, so it was with great anticipation that I pick Rilla Askew is an extremely talented and visionary writer;she is proud of being an Oklahoman and has set herself the task of telling the myriad stories of her state's origins, in the multiple voices of all its peoples,whites,blacks,Native American,Latino,etalia. Her descriptive ability rivals the greatest American authors, so it was with great anticipation that I picked up this novel about the Tulsa Race Riots in the s.
The fist chapter, about the grueling, torturous birth of the youngest brother of the main character's family put me directly in mind of the best prose and tension of The Mercy Seat Overwrought,unbelievable,unlikeable characters in a contrived,convoluted, plot that borrowed too heavily from aspects of The Mercy Seat wise, clarvoiyant native woman;slimey,sociopathic villain;noble but oppressed African American;there's even a cameo of sorts of one of the characters from the first novel There's a good book in here somewhere struggling to come out but it drowned in the telling.
Aug 18, Joy Weese Moll rated it really liked it. This was a selection for our book club that specializes in books on race in America. The whole neighborhood was razed in a few days by white mob violence, leaving scores of residents dead. Check it out if you love good writing and characters portrayed with care and distinction. More of the books we read in the last year: Oct 01, D rated it it was amazing.
Superb story of two women caught in turbulent times in a vicious society. The context is Oklahoma during the early twentieth century oil boom. Money has made men drunk with greed. Racism has made an entire region--if not nation--callous and inhumane. Askew's characters are very real and transforming. Her writing is compelling, elegant, and gripping. As a bonus, she's done her homework. This story is securely lodged in unspoken Oklahoma history.
By the time the novel ends, readers will have had a Superb story of two women caught in turbulent times in a vicious society. By the time the novel ends, readers will have had a curbside seat to witness one of our nation's most brutal race massacres The well-documented episode was a calculated, vindictive, and one-sided attack on a once thriving black economic community. Askew's unblinking insistence to tell the truth in a highly readable and non-preachy way is a testament to her gift as a writer.
Jan 27, Jennifer rated it it was amazing Shelves: Although it's a novel, the book underlined for me that Oklahoma history is American history, with all the violence and striving for more that implies. The narrative centers around two women, one white, one black, one the wife of an ambitious oil wildcatter, one a maid.
The terrible connections that bind them are background for the rising tensions that lead up to the explosive violence that broke out one day in when a black man was accused of attacking a white woman in an elevator and white Although it's a novel, the book underlined for me that Oklahoma history is American history, with all the violence and striving for more that implies.
The terrible connections that bind them are background for the rising tensions that lead up to the explosive violence that broke out one day in when a black man was accused of attacking a white woman in an elevator and white Tulsa decimated the Greenwood district, known throughout the country as "Black Wall Street".
Askew deftly tells the story in a variety of voices. While the story was completely enthralling, I took my time to savor the language and the detail that the author used to tell about a terrible time in Oklahomaand Americanhistory. Oct 28, Judy rated it really liked it. I didn't know much about the Tulsa race riot which is sad since I'm a native Tulsan. While this book is fiction, I suspect it's pretty true to life. I like the way the author wrote this novel in the various voices of the participants in this drama. I found the story disturbing in the cruelty of the "white" people and the warpeed view they had of "black" people.
I'm happy to say that we have progressed in our attitudes and actions. This book should be a must read and a basis for discussion in ear I didn't know much about the Tulsa race riot which is sad since I'm a native Tulsan. This book should be a must read and a basis for discussion in early high school. Not only is it part of Oklahoma history, it's also a benchmark for US history too. Think early version and a more candid and cruel version of The Help.