Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb
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Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb

Sanora Babb' s long-hidden novel Whose Names Are Unknown tells an intimate story of the High Plains farmers who fled drought dust storms during the Great Depression.

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Originally written and slated for publication in 1939, this long-forgotten masterpiece was shelved by Random House when The Grapes of Wrath met with wide acclaim.

In the belief that Steinbeck already adequately explored the subject matter, Babb’s lyrical novel about a farm family’s relentless struggle to survive in both Depression-era Oklahoma and in the California migrant labor camps gathered dust for decades.

Rescued from obscurity by the University of Oklahoma Press, the members of the poor but proud Dunne family and their circle of equally determined friends provide another legitimate glimpse into life on the dust-plagued prairies of the Southwest and in the fertile, but bitterly disappointing, orchards and vineyards of the so-called promised land.

Babb, a native of Oklahoma’s arid panhandle and a volunteer with the Farm Security Administration in Depression-era California, brings an insider’s knowledge and immediacy to this authentically compelling narrative. A slightly less political, more female-oriented, companion piece to The Grapes of Wrath.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Whose Names Are Unknown by Sanora Babb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really appreciated this one. I read it for Life’s Library Book Club. I’d recommend it to anyone.

The Story
I had no idea the connection to Steinbeck. I remember reading about the Dust Bowl in grade school, in more recent years Ken Burn’s PBS documentary. Such an interesting phenomenon from preceding events to the sequela, this book really captures it all. Events to emotion.

Love the details of life that depicted a sense of community.

The Writing
I’ll just list out what I loved.

The visuals. Adjective and adverbs in threes which I thought was different. I loved the overall rhythm. The imagery with what I felt to be deliberate word choices that were unique throughout the book.

I love the way the author set the tone, the livelihood, the customs, daily life.

Reflective bits.

My Favorite Lines
“They would rise and fall and, in their falling, rise again.”

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