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From the Publisher
We wanted to write a living history of California, to collect pieces by living authors who breathed in California and loved it, who loved the desert, the mountains, the beaches, the freeways, the smog. We found them. Carolyn See writing about the coming of the smog; writers on MonoLake, the Devil’s Punchbowl, Arcata, the restaurant where the most drug deals go down in California. The best river for fishing. Mark Arax writes of Tulare Lake, a buried lake like Atlantis that resurfaced and California is all about reinvention no matter who does the reinventing. Susan Straight writes of the Inland Empire, a place that is maybe past reinvention. She talks of immigrants, of working hard, of raising children in spite of difficulties in desert heat. Jenny Factor writes of the oldest Jewish cemetery. California is full of stories. “Kettleman City” by Matt Shears is one of those pieces that surprises you; it’s a city we’ve all driven through on our way to San Francisco but have never really seen, and that apparently is the problem. The city houses a chemical waste dump, a 70% Latino population, 25% unemployment and an insanely high cancer rate and birth defect rate. That’s California too. As Pat Morrison says of the car, the symbol of California, “it runs on fossil fuel and faith and myth.”
This is a book about California with its dreams of sunshine, gold, light, oranges, fruit trees, palms, pools, silicon and then the reality: Mountains and brush, miles of coastline, smog and redwoods, deserts and Joshua Trees, drugs and poverty, sadness and something we hold in our hands instead of sunlight, instead of money, instead of dreams. “String or nothing” the hobbit might say. That’s it, in California, what you have is not what you expected, but what you have you make the best of and you create a new story with that, you create a story that will make your geographic space the envy of the world. That’s California. Don’t you wish you were here? Don’t you wish you were a Californian too?