California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA


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Author event: Estella Habal discusses her new book, “San Francisco’s International Hotel: Mobilizing the Filipino American Community in the Anti-Eviction Movement,” at Modern Times Bookstore Jan. 29

From the Modern Times Bookstore website:

Part history, part memoir, San Francisco’s International Hotel presents the struggle to save the International Hotel in Manilatown, San Francisco. This battle culminated in the 1977 mass eviction of elderly tenant activists. In telling this compelling story, Estella Habal features her own memories of the anti-eviction movement, focusing on the roles of Filipino Americans and their participation in both the anti-eviction protests and the nascent Asian American movement of the time. (Temple University Press)

Dr. Estella Habal, San Francisco’s International Hotel: Mobilizing the Filipino American Community in the Anti-Eviction Movement

Thursday, January 29, 7:30 PM

Modern Times Bookstore

888 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110


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“Palo Alto Reads” — Brian Copeland on his book, “Not a Genuine Black, Man: My Life as an Outsider,” Jan. 28

In the Palo Alto Reads series, author Brian Copeland will discuss his new book, Not a Genuine Black Man: My Life as an Outsider.

From the announcement:

In the summer of 1972, when Brian Copeland was eight, his family moved from Oakland to San Leandro, hoping for a better life. At the time, San Leandro was 99.99% white and the suburban community was not welcoming to African Americans. This reputation was confirmed almost immediately: Brian got his first look at the inside of a cop car. Days later, Brian was turned away by several barbers who said “we don’t cut that kind of hair.”

It was a time that Brian spent his adult years trying to forget, until one day an anonymous letter arrived that forced him to reevaluate his childhood: “As an African American, I am disgusted every time I hear your voice because YOU are not a genuine black man!”

A poignant, hilarious, and disarming memoir about growing up black in an all-white suburb, Not a Genuine Black Man is also a powerful contemplation on the meaning of race, and a thoughtful examination of how our surroundings make us who we are.

Palo Alto Reads: Brian Copeland
Not a Genuine Black Man: My Life as an Outsider
Wednesday January 28, 2009 6:30 p.m.

Location: Palo Alto High School Haymarket Theater, 50 Embarcadero Rd., Palo Alto

FREE and Open to the Public


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Author event at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park: Frances Dinkelspiel on “Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California”

Frances Dinkelspiel will appear at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Tues., Jan. 27 at 7:00 p.m. to discuss her book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California.  Ms. Dinkelspiel is an award-winning journalist and the great-great granddaughter of Isaias Hellman.  Her work has appeared in, The New York Times, People, The San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Magazine and other venues.

From the Kepler’ site:

This meticulously researched biography is an engrossing saga that chronicles Isaias Hellman’s drive to build some of California’s largest financial institutions and most respected intellectual establishments. An individual of legendary stature, Hellman was directly responsible for the creation of California’s largest banks and was essential in making the state a financial and industrial superpower.

Kepler’s Books

1010 El Camino Real

Menlo Park CA, 94025

(650) 324-4321


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CSA Blog posts Silicon Valley Bibliography by Julia Stein

On another page of this blog, the California Studies Association has posted a bibliography of writings about Silicon Valley compiled by CSA Steering Committe member Julia Stein in anticipation of the CSA’s upcoming conference (April 24) in Cupertino, “Debugging the Silicon Dream: Real Life in a Virtual World.” The bibliography is a work-in-progress and readers are encouraged to contact Julia with suggestions.


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“Mary Austin and the American West” — reviewed by Peter Richardson

The new biography of (originally) Californian writer Mary Austin (author of The Land of Little Rain), Mary Austin and the American West, by Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson, was reviewed in the L.A. Times Sun., Jan. 25, 2009, by Peter Richardson.  From the review:

The arc of Austin’s career would present a challenge for any biographer, but, in “Mary Austin and the American West,” Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson meet that challenge head on. They pore over Austin’s spirited correspondence and map her extensive contacts, which came to include Jack London, Herbert Hoover, D.H. Lawrence and Willa Cather. They track her advocacy on women’s issues and on the preservation of Indian and Mexican culture in the Southwest. Sifting through her published work, they acknowledge its shortcomings, attributing most of them to her need for income. They also compare her to contemporaries, including John Muir, who shared Austin’s astonishing powers of observation but lacked her feeling for people and culture.

The force of Austin’s personality wafts up from Goodman and Dawson’s portrait. As a professional lecturer and self-styled expert on race, gender and psychic phenomena, Austin offered her opinions freely and magisterially. In an unfinished Lawrence play, a character based on Austin says, “Won’t you all sit down and discuss the situation, while I solve it?” Her pronouncements produced an occasional irony. Having claimed that she preferred an unfaithful man to a stingy husband, for example, she was flummoxed when Lincoln Steffens put that assertion to the test. (After he terminated their affair, she threatened to demand reparations for loss of work and suffering.) But Austin could deploy irony as well. Proposing a literary collaboration with Sinclair Lewis, she wrote, “I know I’m feminine, damnably feminine, and not ashamed of it, but I’m not ladylike. You can count on my behaving like a gentleman.” Her blend of brass and innocence exasperated some and endeared her to others.


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Joe Mathews writes in the L.A. Times on whether California has always been in crisis

In an article in the L.A. Times on Sun., Jan. 25, 2009, author Joe Mathews, currently an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation, wondered if, based on his reading of writings by Carey McWilliams, Joan Didion and others, the norm throughout California’s history has been financial crisis, as the state has had to deal with the costs of continuous growth.

From the article:

“‘No calculus exists by which needs can be fully anticipated in California,’ McWilliams wrote. ‘Other communities can project a population curve, and, with fair accuracy, anticipate needs twenty and thirty years in advance; but it would be a brave man, indeed, who would undertake to chart California’s growth for the next decade. There are too many unpredictable factors; too many variable elements.’

“That passage begs the question that’s been posed recently by media analysts, and even by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in this month’s state of the state address: Is California still governable? Reading McWilliams suggests the proper answer is another question: When was California ever governable?”


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Stephanie Pincetl writes on plans for the L.A. River

In a blog post Jan. 21, 2009, Stephanie Pincetl, Director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment, Urban Center for People and the Environment, discusses current efforts to “restore” the Los Angeles River. Dr. Pincetl asks whether plan for the river constitute a restoration or a reinvention. From the post:

“In the early 1980s, Louis McAdams, a performance artist, had a vision that the Los Angeles River could be restored and returned to life, extricated from its concrete confines, and allowed to flow naturally. This vision, at first ridiculed and trivialized, has become the city’s own. Plans are a-foot to create parks along its long trajectory from the San Fernando Valley to the sea, to build new river-oriented housing and commercial developments along the river, and to remove the concrete lining where feasible, balancing public safety from flooding, cost and ecological considerations.

“But is this restoration or the(re) invention of the Los Angeles River? The river’s flow today is tertiary treated sewage from the Tillman Sewage Treatment Plant and dry weather run-off from urban irrigation. Most of the River’s own indigenous flow is captured by the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the city’s drinking water supply and kept in underground aquifers. Only when it rains does the river have true flow, and since the river is channelized to prevent flooding, most of the rainflow is directed to the sea.”