Susan Kates’ “Red Dirt Women”
A Home More Than the Sum of Its Parts
An aging hippie fiercely beloved by the preschool students she teaches about everything from dinosaurs to weather; a tenured professor with a passion for wild birds; a cheery Native blackjack dealer; a bevy of sharp-elbowed roller girls; a Vietnamese émigré with an eye for jade – all of these are the title characters in “Red Dirt Women,” Susan Kates’ memoir-slash-character study about the contemporary Oklahoma female.
As much as it’s about any of the conversation subjects, the book is about Kates herself; her trepidation about moving to the plains in the first place, her love for Frankoma pottery and Annie Oakley, her son’s tendency to agree to anything if there’s Coke involved, the emotionally wrenching process of adopting that son from his young, borderline-destitute birth mother – also an Oklahoma woman. In the foreword, author and friend Rilla Askew calls it “a wonderful evocation of contemporary plainswomen’s engagement with the land and its history … and, as in Kates’ own experience, a quest for home.”