The Harry Ransom Center has introduced the Web exhibition “Sanora Babb: Stories From the American High Plains,” which highlights the work of American novelist Sanora Babb (1907-2005). Babb drew on the natural beauty of the American High Plains and the difficult conditions of her childhood there to give voice to a people who left little written record of their own lives and who have received scant representation in history.
The exhibition highlights Babb’s accomplishments as a fiction writer and illustrates with historical photographs the plight of Depression-era Americans. Many of the photographs were taken by Babb’s sister, Dorothy.
Sanora Babb’s first novel, “Whose Names Are Unknown,” traces the lives of High Plains families uprooted from their dry land farms and forced to seek work as seasonal harvesters. Random House accepted Babb’s novel for publication in 1939, then broke the contract when John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” appeared, contending that buyers would not welcome two novels treating the same subject. “Whose Names Are Unknown” was eventually published by University of Oklahoma Press in 2004 to much acclaim, including a Los Angeles Times review claiming that Babb’s Dust Bowl novel rivaled Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”