Evans Book Awards Announced at Utah State University
An account of a former slave and his white Mormon wife, whose traveling act helped to construct the Wild West’s image of “the Indian,” and a gorgeous biography of southern Utah landscape artist Jimmie Jones are the 2016 winners of the Evans book awards sponsored by the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University.
Angela Pulley Hudson received the Evans Biography Award for Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians, published by the University of North Carolina Press. Hudson is an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University who specializes in American Indian history.
Winner of the Evans Handcart Award is James M. Aton for his coffee table-sized, photograph-rich book, The Art and Times of Jimmie Jones: Landscape Artist of the Canyon Country, published by Gibbs Smith. Aton is an English professor at Southern Utah University in Cedar City and author of several books on Utah and the West.
The 2016 awards, announced by Patricia Lambert, director of the Mountain West Center, were open to books published in 2015 whose authors or subjects are part of what author Wallace Stegner called “Mormon Country,” that region historically influenced by Mormon institutions and social practices. The Evans Biography Award carries a cash prize of $10,000, while the Evans Handcart Award includes a prize of $2,500.
The cash prizes are funded by an endowment created in 1983 by the family of David W. and Beatrice Evans. David Evans was a Salt Lake City writer and advertising executive, while Beatrice Evans was a historian and genealogist.
Hudson’s Real Native Genius, the 35th winner of the Evans Biography Award, is “a truly unique and engaging biography,” said Lambert. Hudson examines popular beliefs about American Indian culture in the mid-19th century through the stories of an unlikely couple, Okah Tubbee, an ex-slave, and his wife, Laah Ceil, a white Mormon convert. The two pose as Native Americans in performances of “Indianness” that take them “across the country and into the very heart of the early Mormon Church,” said Lambert.
Jury members commented that “the book offers compelling ways to think about the complex culture and transformative and creative dimensions of the American West, particularly with regard to issues of identity and defining communities.”
The subject of Aton’s book, landscape artist Jim Jones, was described as “the premiere landscapist of southern Utah” by Vern Swanson and Robert Olpin in their 1991 book Utah Art. Jones, who died in 2010, was known for his dramatic portrayals of the red sweeping cliffs and buttes of Zion Canyon, the Grand Canyon and other vistas of the Colorado Plateau.
Jury members noted that Aton’s portrayal of this significant western oil painter “helps readers understand him as a person, while also giving insight into his artwork and its relationship to a range of important aspects of western culture.”
The volume, the jury added, can be enjoyed as “art history of real and significant merit” or for the visual impact of its collection of gorgeous reproductions of Jones’s artwork.
The two authors will be recognized at a ceremony and book-signing in October at Utah State University.
Earlier winners of the Evans Biography Award include Leonard Arrington’s biography, Brigham Young: American Moses (Random House, 1983) and A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell (Oxford University Press, 2000) by Donald Worster.
Among previous winners of the Evans Handcart Award, which has been offered since 1996, are David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (University of Utah Press, 2005), written by Gregory Prince and William Robert Wright andWriting for Her Life: The Novelist Mildred Walker (University of Nebraska Press, 2003) by Ripley Hugo.
More information on the awards and lists of previous winners can be found online.
Deadline for submissions for the 2017 Evans Awards is Feb. 22, 2017.
The Mountain West Center will host
an awards ceremony and book-signing for the winners on October 28, 2016 at 1:30
p.m. in the Alumni House on the USU campus. The public is invited to attend.