Throughout her writing career, Thomas wrote poetry, plays, and children’s books. The Associated Press reports that many consider her best-known work to be an autobiographical young adult novel entitled Marked By Fire. This book earned her the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 1983.
Here’s more from The New York Times: “The story, rendered in luminous prose, follows a girl named Abyssinia Jackson as she grows up in a black community in poor, rural Ponca City, Okla. With a plot centering on a rape, abandonment and destruction wrought by natural disasters, the novel portrays Abyssinia, her family and neighbors overcoming hardship through their faith and the strength of their communal bonds…Ponca City, in north-central Oklahoma, and its environs became Ms. Thomas’s equivalent of William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. She set several more books there, including Bright Shadow and House of Light, which continued Abyssinia’s story.” (Photo Credit: Jim Dennis Photography)