Rilla Askew

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Rilla Askew

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in The United States
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July 2012


Rilla Askew's newest novel, PRIZE FOR THE FIRE, about the 16th century English martyr Anne Askew, will be published in October 2022 and is available for preorder. Rilla Askew received a 2009 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her first novel, THE MERCY SEAT, was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dublin IMPAC Prize, was a Boston Globe Notable Book, and received the Oklahoma Book Award and the Western Heritage Award in 1998. Her acclaimed novel about the Tulsa Race Massacre, FIRE IN BEULAH, received the American Book Award and the Myers Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights. She was a 2004 fellow at Civiella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy, and in 2008 her no ...more

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Rilla Askew I've known about the English Reformation-era martyr Anne Askew for many years. I began researching her life in 2001 and have worked on a novel about h…moreI've known about the English Reformation-era martyr Anne Askew for many years. I began researching her life in 2001 and have worked on a novel about her ever since (with a few side trips to different eras, characters, and places in the books I've written in between).

I would say that the initial idea to write about her came because she and I share the same last name. But as I discovered in my research what a sassy, smart, defiant person she was--one of the first women to have her writings published in English, a woman who sought a divorce from her abusive husband in an era when women could not get a divorce--I knew I wanted to do Anne justice by delving deep into her early life. I've sought to depict her world in Tudor England, all the strictures placed on a young girl of intellect and spark. Anne struggled against them, found solace in the primary intellectual outlet for women of the day--the Bible in English translation--resisted and persisted, and ultimately paid for her defiance.

I've always been interested in writing about women's lives: their simultaneous power and powerlessness, how they navigate the strictures of their era and place, how they at once make and are made by history. Anne Askew exemplifies these issues in stark and terrible ways.
(Spoiler from here down.)

Anne Askew is the only woman known to have been both tortured in the Tower of London and burned at the stake as a heretic. These are fundamental facts of her life, as a quick internet search reveals, and why she was famous in her own time. But my new novel, PRIZE FOR THE FIRE, doesn't dwell on the hard facts of Anne's death; rather, it traces all that went before. My hope is that the book achieves what the publisher says about it: "Prize for the Fire renders the inner life of Anne Askew with a depth and immediacy that transcend time." I hope readers agree. (less)
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Cover art

Juxtaposing the covers for my newest novel, Prize for the Fire, with the paperback cover of Fire in Beulah, I think of the symbolism of fire, not only in the titles but in what these two books are about. I think, too, about how a cover image can become the book's characters in the reader's mind. While I'm writing, I hold a clear image of what the characters look like, and I try to evoke that image Read more of this blog post »
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Published on May 01, 2022 12:34 Tags: book-cover

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Rilla answered Goodreads's question: Rilla Askew
I've known about the English Reformation-era martyr Anne Askew for many years. I began researching her life in 2001 and have worked on a novel about her ever since (with a few side trips to different eras, characters, and places in the books I've wri See Full Answer
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The Economist by Christopher Grimes
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Christopher Grimes’ The Economist is wicked smart, challenging, delightful, illuminating, and at times downright scary. I loved it. When I first jumped in, I thought of the short works of Donald Barthelme, whose playful, postmodernist style I’ve alwa ...more
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Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life by Pamela Erens
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I've long been a fan of Pamela Erens' work--and a fan of George Eliot. So when I learned this book was in the offing from IG's Bookmarked series, I preordered it straightaway. While I waited for Erens' book to arrive, I revisited Middlemarch on audio ...more
Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life by Pamela Erens
"A modern-day writer's engaging appreciation of George Eliot's Middlemarch and what she's gained both as a writer and a woman from reading the iconic 19th-century novel over the years. Pamela Erens argues that Eliot's sophisticated insights into human" Read more of this review »
Middlemarch and the Imperfect Life by Pamela Erens
"This is a brilliant, often funny, and deeply insightful set of essays about the author's relationship with the novel Middlemarch. There are moments of memoir that are well-matched to the considerations about the book, and there are literary insights " Read more of this review »
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Prize for the Fire by Rilla Askew
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The Examinations of Anne Askew by Anne Askew
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Quotes by Rilla Askew  (?)
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“We didn’t get anything done! She looked around vaguely, then wandered along the corridor to the”
Rilla Askew, Kind of Kin

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“When you fall in love, you fall in love with yourself, when you kill yourself, you kill someone else.”
Jessica Treat

“As a people, we have been tolled farther and farther away from the facts of what we have done by the romanticizers, whose bait is nothing more than the wishful insinuation that we have done no harm. Speaking a public language of propaganda, uninfluenced by the real content of our history which we know only in a deep and guarded privacy, we are still in the throes of the paradox of the “gentleman and soldier.”

However conscious it may have been, there is no doubt in my mind that all this moral and verbal obfuscation is intentional. Nor do I doubt that its purpose is to shelter us from the moral anguish implicit in our racism—an anguish that began, deep and mute, in the minds of Christian democratic freedom-loving owners of slaves.”
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound




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