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Booker Worthen Literary Prize
aka: Worthen Prize

The Booker Worthen Literary Prize is awarded each year to the best work, fiction or non-fiction, by an author living in central Arkansas. With a stipend of $2,000, it is one of the state’s most lucrative and prestigious literary prizes.

The Booker Worthen Literary Prize was established in 1999 in the memory of William Booker Worthen, who was a member of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) Board of Trustees for twenty-two years, as well as part of the Worthen Bank empire. The award is funded in part by interest from an endowment for the award donated by the Worthen family.

The Worthen Prize is awarded in a joint program with the Porter Fund Literary Prize. This generally occurred in October, but, in 2008, the year that CALS took over responsibility of the Arkansas Literary Festival (ALF), the reception was moved to coincide with the festival, although it was not an official part of the ALF. In 2012, however, the award ceremony returned to October. The winning book is selected by the Worthen Prize Committee. To qualify, authors must live in the CALS service area, which includes over thirty counties in central Arkansas with which the library system has a lending agreement; there is a three-year period of eligibility based on a book’s copyright year. Three authors—Mara Leveritt, Kevin Brockmeier, and Grif Stockley—have won the award twice.

 

Year

Book

Author

1999

Arkansas, 1800–1860: Remote and Restless

S. Charles Bolton

2000

The Boys on the Tracks

Mara Leveritt

2001

The Rumble of a Distant Drum: The Quapaws and Old World Newcomers, 1673–1804.

Morris S. Arnold

2002

Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919

Grif Stockley

2003

Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three

Mara Leveritt

2004

The Truth about Celia

Kevin Brockmeier

2005

Communities of Kinship: Antebellum Families and the Settlement of the Cotton Frontier

Carolyn Earle Billingsley

2006

Promises Kept

Sidney S. McMath

2007

A Brief History of the Dead

Kevin Brockmeier

2008

Turn away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis that Shocked the Nation

Elizabeth Jacoway

2009

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

Trenton Lee Stewart

2010

Ruled by Race: Black/White Relations in Arkansas from Slavery to the Present

Grif Stockley

2011

The Broken Vase

Phillip H. McMath and Emily Matson Lewis

2012

The Thousand-Year Flood: The Ohio-Mississippi Disaster of 1937

David Welky

2013

Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State

Mark K. Christ

2014

Fiat Flux: The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth-Century Country Doctor and Philosopher

William D. Lindsey

2015

Racial Cleansing in Arkansas, 1883–1924: Politics, Land, Labor, and Criminality

Guy Lancaster

2016

We Wanna Boogie: The Rockabilly Roots of Sonny Burgess and the Pacers

Marvin Schwartz

2017

Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas: How Politicians, the Press, the Klan, and Religious Leaders Imagined an Enemy

Kenneth C. Barnes

 
 
For additional information:

“3 Authors Turn a New Page with Library Group Honors.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 12, 2003, p. 4D.

“Arnold’s Book, Poetry Collection, Win Honors.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 30, 2001, p. 5H.

“Laurels for State Literary Lights Make Dinner One for the Books.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 31, 1999, p. 10D.

Staff of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Last Updated 7/19/2017

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