CSAW Book Award Winner to Speak Jan. 30 at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum


CANYON, Texas — The 2022 winner of a major award from West Texas A&M University’s Center for the Study of the American West will discuss the region’s ongoing water crisis in a special Jan. 30 event.

Dr. Lucas Bessire, professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, was named in September as the 2022 winner of CSAW’s Bonney MacDonald Outstanding Western Book Award for “Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains,” a National Book Award finalist.

Bessire will speak at 6 p.m. Jan. 30 in the Hazlewood Room in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum on WT’s campus in Canyon. Admission is free, and refreshments will be available.

Bessire’s memoir is “an urgent and unsettling meditation on environmental change,” according to Princeton University Press, which published the book in 2021.

“It is a real honor to have my book recognized by colleagues at the Center for the Study of the American West, especially given our shared commitments to the peoples, lands and futures of the Great Plains,” Bessire said in September. “I look forward to our upcoming conversation.”

CSAW has given the Bonney MacDonald Outstanding Western Book Award annually since 2019.

Promoting regional research is a key aim of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $115 million.

“Running Out” is a memoir that utilizes the author’s anthropological training as well as generations-deep connections to farming and ranching in western Kansas to explore wider issues related to water conservation and usage in rural communities across America.

The Bonney MacDonald CSAW Award for Outstanding Western Book is named for a beloved and long-serving professor of English at WT. It is a juried prize recognizing books that demonstrate excellent scholarly or creative insight concerning the American West or some aspect of its history, culture, society or environment. Of particular interest are books geographically relevant to the Southern Plains region and/or the concerns of a Southern Plains regional readership, as well as works that balance scholarly and creative excellence with accessible style or popular appeal.

Dr. Alex Hunt, CSAW director, Regents Professor of English and Vincent-Haley Professor of Western Studies, praised the selection.

“I’m so pleased that the award committee is honoring a book that has vast importance to the region’s future and also is a pleasure to read for a broad audience,” Hunt said. “It’s precisely the kind of book that CSAW wants to celebrate.”