California Studies Dinner: Glenna Matthews, “The Golden State in the Civil War” October 16

Glenna Matthews will discuss her recent book, The Golden State and the Civil War: Thomas Starr King, the Republican Party, and the Birth of Modern California, at the October 16 session of the UC Berkeley California Studies Dinner Seminar.  According to the Journal of American History, the book’s “retelling of a familiar story in an unfamiliar setting greatly enhances our understanding of the Civil War.”  Dr. Matthews is a Laguna Beach author and scholar who has formerly taught at UC Berkeley and Stanford.  The seminar will be at the university’s Center for Labor Research and Education, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley from 7 to 9 p.m.  Free admission and dinner.  Contact Myra Armstrong at

ONWARD: The Grapes of Wrath 75th anniversary roadtrip, October 4-14, 2013

1003542_10152164464919307_1742132583_nIn June 18, 1938, a little more than three weeks after starting The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck wrote in his journal,

If I could do this book properly it would be one of the really fine books and a truly American book. But I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability. I’ll just have to work from a background of these. Honesty. If I can keep an honesty it is all I can expect of my poor brain…If I can do that it will be all my lack of genius can produce. For no one else knows my lack of ability the way I do. I am pushing against it all the time.

When Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath he was trying to tell a story – a story that was not his own. He tried to tell this story with respect and authenticity – to give voice to millions of Americans whose voices were muffled as they lost their homes and livelihoods to financial and environmental devastation.

2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, and to celebrate, the National Steinbeck Center has invited three artists to hit the road: playwright Octavio Solis, documentary filmmaker PJ Palmer, and linoleum block artist (ahem, me!)  We’ll be heading out on a ten-day trip (October 4-14, 2013) from Sallisaw, Oklahoma to Weedpatch, California as part of a team, leading The Grapes of Wrathinspired art workshops at cultural arts and educational organizations. We’ll also be actively engaging people we meet on the road in an exploration of modern day stories of the human experience of struggle and resilience and collecting oral histories.

We’re excited to announce the confirmed organizational partners where programs, workshops and oral history collection will be taking place along The Grapes of WrathJourney this October:
•Oklahoma History Center:
•Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at Oklahoma State University:
•Amarillo Museum of Art:
•KACV, Amarillo:
•Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum:
•Albuquerque Museum of Art and History:
•Coconino Center for the Arts:
· Pioneer Museum/Arizona Historical Society:
· CSU Bakersfield:

We will be blogging throughout the Journey, and invite public collaboration and feedback through multiple social media channels. This entire trip will be documented and shared as part of the 75th Anniversary celebration in 2014.

Follow The Journey on:






Author’s talk about the California coast 9/28/2013

Saturday, September 28th is National Public Lands Day, and Richmond author Dave Helvarg will be giving a talk at the fantastic Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park about his sweeping survey of the role the Pacific coast plays in this state. The Mayor of Richmond Gayle McLaughlin will introduce the program. Click here for directions (it’s not easy to find). [LMC]

California Studies Dinner Seminar: Peter Richardson on the Grateful Dead, Sept. 19

family-dog-skeleton-roses-i8832Peter Richardson will discuss his forthcoming book on the history of the Grateful Dead at this fall’s first U.C. Berkeley California Studies Dinner Seminar on Thursday, September 19.  Richardson is an editor at UC Press, a lecturer at San Francisco State, and author of books on Carey McWilliams and Ramparts Magazine.  His current work is based on extensive interviews and research at the Grateful Dead Archives at U.C. Santa Cruz. You can read some of Richardson’s thoughts on the Dead, music, and California culture here. The talk will be at the U.C. Center for Labor Research and Education, 2521 Channing Way, Berkeley, 7-9 p.m.  Contact Myra Armstrong to reserve a spot:

Book Review: A Trayvon of another time….

Author and UCLA historian Brenda Stevenson had no way of knowing that her new book, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins:  Justice Gender and the Origins of the L.A. Riots, would be so tragically timely.  The headlines she dissects could have been written about the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida – but this innocent teen was gunned down more than two decades ago in a corner store in Compton.

Brenda Stevenson, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice Gender and the Origins of the L.A. Riots, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Book Cover: The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins (2013)

Book Cover: The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins (2013)

Review by Elaine Elinson

The unarmed African American teenager was shot and killed.  The shooter, claiming self-defense, served not one minute of jail time.

The sorrow, anger and disbelief in the Black community was palpable.  One mother wrote to the daily newspaper that she feared the justice system has “told us it is open season on our children.”

This might have been last month’s headline about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida.  It actually happened more than two decades ago, across the country in Los Angeles.

Just two weeks after the brutal beating of Rodney King Continue reading 

Tunnel Project Totters Financially; Fixing Up Current Conveyance Gets More Water

The Brown administration’s plan to dig giant water tunnels under the Delta looks financially precarious, like a bus hanging out over a cliff. It’s economic benefits have been seriously challenged and there is no agreement yet whether the people who stand to profit are willing to pay for it.  State water contractors in the San Joaquin Valley and southern California who want this pricey project, called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan or BDCP, are promising economic benefits based on a supposed threat that, without the tunnels, future water exports will plummet.

A central problem for tunnel promoters is that if their predictions are wrong about sinking water exports – if future water deliveries through existing Delta channels continue as they are today, and especially if they improve, the economic value of the tunnels would evaporate.  Several sources consulted for this report believe that water exports could be improved in the near future, with new fish screens that are in current testing, plus some modifications of through-Delta channels. That, combined with new storage south of the Delta to take excess water in wet years, could either make tunnels unnecessary or reduce their size.

Read more here