Land was a symbol of freedom to African-Americans, many of them former slaves, who settled the Oklahoma Territory in the late 1800s. The territories they staked out became their homes and then communities where their children could be raised as free. Using an omniscient first-person narration and one woman as the focus of the experience she delineates, Thomas portrays how something as plain as the vast prairie, as simple as a sod hut, could look beautiful to these new settlers. In lyrical language, she also makes clear the hardships of settling the land and surviving cold winters. She recreates in fiction the histories of women, unrecorded except in diaries and anecdotes passed down through generations of her family; a note informs readers of where the facts and writer's license diverge. Cooper's dusty drawings portray both the isolation of the settlers' new life on the prairie, and the strong human bonds that helped them endure; his use of color gives the Oklahoma the look of paradise without sentimentalizing the work such a place entails.