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Charles Portis

Born on December 28, 1933, Charles Portis was raised and educated in various towns in southern Arkansas. Following service in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, he enrolled in the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.

After his graduation, Portis worked for various newspapers as a reporter, including nearly two years at the Arkansas Gazette and four years at the New York Herald Tribune (which also employed Tom Wolfe, Lewis Lapham, and Jimmy Breslin at the time).  After serving a year as the Herald Tribune’s London bureau chief and reporter, he left journalism in 1964, returned to Arkansas, and began writing fiction full time.

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Judge Parker and His Marshals

Isaac C. Parker was appointed United States District Judge for the Western District of Arkansas in 1875, a post he would hold for more than 21 years.  Parker’s jurisdiction was extraordinary, encompassing half of Arkansas and all of Indian Territory, roughly 74,000 square miles. In this huge area, the court exercised jurisdiction over all criminal cases. Until 1891, the judgments of the court were final, with no appeal from a conviction.

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NEA Continues Support of the Arts through Big Read

Since its establishment by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts has nearly half a century of supporting the arts through financial assistance of more than $4 billion via partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders and philanthropists throughout the United States.

In 2007, the NEA launched a specific push to revitalize the study and celebration of literature with its campaign, The Big Read. The campaign, managed by Arts Midwest, provides competitive grants to support innovative reading programs in selected communities. In each case, communities will select one book as a central focus for programming, book discussions and other activities.

There are 36 selections from literature in The Big Read library, chosen by a group of experts.

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Kiamichi Country: The Perfect Setting

The National Endowment for the Arts found the perfect setting for a Big Read devoted to True Grit when it awarded a 2014 grant to the Southeastern Public Library System of Oklahoma, SEPLSO.  The Oklahoma settings in the novel—McAlester’s Store, Winding Stair Mountain, The Texas Road, the Choctaw Nation—are all located within the SEPLSO service area.

SEPLSO serves readers in Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, and Pittsburg counties with libraries in Arkoma, Broken Bow, Poteau, Hugo, Coalgate, Hartshone, Heavener, Idabel, Wilburton, Valiant, McAlester, Spiro, Stigler, Talihina, and Wister. The Oklahoma Department of Tourism calls this area of the state Kiamichi Country.

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One State, One Book

The entire State of Oklahoma will be joining the Pioneer Library System in reading and celebrating Charles Portis's classic novel throughout 2014.

"When Pioneer suggested True Grit would be ideal for an Oklahoma One Book project, we jumped at the chance," said Bill Young, Public Information Manager at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

"We haven't had a statewide reading and discussion program since the Centennial Oklahoma Reads Oklahoma project from 2004 to 2007. That was very popular, and libraries have told us time and again they want another One Book program."

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