California Studies Association

The latest news, events, and perspectives from the CSA

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“California as an International Environmental Policy Leader — Climate Change, Water Policy, Chemicals Regulation, and Biosafety” — One day conference April 30 in Wash., D.C.

The California Institute for Federal Policy Research presents a one day conference April 30, 2009, titled “Managing Biosafety and Biodiversity in a Global World — EU, US, California and Comparative Perspectives”.  The conference, according to the Institute’s announcement, is:

the culmination of a two-year project examining the roles that California and the European Union play in defining the forefront of domestic and international environmental policy solutions. The goal of the project is to produce concrete, actionable policy recommendations to further regulatory cooperation between the EU, California and the US on transatlantic environmental issues, including climate change, chemicals policy, biosafety, water regulation, and biodiversity protection. As socioeconomic and environmental issues become increasingly integrated, innovative policy solutions are required to identify and address the complex nexus between society and environment. The project has developed a network of representatives from the US and the EU in academia, industry, the NGO-sector, and government.

The project is funded by the European Commission (DG External Relations) within the framework of the pilot-program on Transatlantic Methods for Handling Global Challenges. Event sponsors include:

  • UC Berkeley IGS Center on Institutions and Governance (
  • Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • University of California Washington Center

Thursday, April 30, 2009
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
U.C. Washington Center
1608 Rhode Island Ave, NW, Washington DC
RSVP to UCDC to attend

To attend the conference, reply to . For more information, visit

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Civil and Uncivil Rights in California: The Early Legal History; A Colloquium June 1 in Los Angeles

The California Supreme Court Historical Society and the Los Angeles Times will present a colloquium on Monday, June 1, 2009 on “Civil and Uncivil Rights in California: The Early Legal History,” from 4 pm-7 pm at the LA Times’ Harry Chandler Auditorium. (The program starts at 4:30 pm and will be followed by light refreshments.)

Panelists will include Hon. Joseph Grodin, former Associate Justice of the Cal. Supreme Court, and a distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings, and Dr. Jean Pfaelzer, a professor at the University of Delaware and author of Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. Jim Newton, editor of the LA Times Editorial Page, will moderate. Dr. Robert Chao Romero, a UCLA assistant professor in the Dept. of Chicano/a Studies, will provide additional remarks.

Admission is free for Historical Society members, and for students (with I.D.) and press; $15 for non-members; $10 for government / nonprofits. 2 hours of MCLE will be offered courtesy of Southwestern Law School.

For more information, and to register on-line, go to the California Supreme Court Historical Society’s website.

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Jim Houston, Past Recipient of the CSA Carey McWilliams Award, Dies


The CSA notes the passing of a friend and colleague, James Houston. The following article appeared in the SF Chronicle on Friday, April 24.

In one of Mr. Houston’s most lauded novels, 2001’s “Snow Mountain Passage,” he wrote poignantly of the Donner Party’s famous deadly journey through the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-47, focusing particularly on one family’s survival to become California pioneers.

So it was only fitting that when Mr. Houston knew cancer was about to claim him, he asked that his final hours be spent in his Santa Cruz home – a home that, years before, had been the place where Patty Reed Lewis, a member of that same Donner Party family he wrote about, spent her final hours as well.

“Jim had a really strong link to that place, and it was very special that he made it back there for his passing,” said Santa Cruz writer Geoffrey Dunn, a longtime friend. “He got to die there surrounded by family and friends.”

And, most fittingly, history.

Mr. Houston died April 16 at age 75.

For the past 40 years, he has been considered one of the foremost chroniclers – in both fiction and nonfiction – of the heartbeat and zeitgeist of America west of the Rockies, and its link to Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific Rim.

“Farewell to Manzanar,” the book he wrote with wife Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston in 1973, has become a staple of school reading lists. It chronicles Wakatsuki Houston’s wrenching time in the Manzanar Japanese American internment camp east of the Sierra during World War II. The book earned the couple the Humanitas Prize and opened people’s eyes to a view of the camps that they had not known before.

“Californians: Searching for the Golden State,” Mr. Houston’s account of traveling the state to understand it, and “Continental Drift,” his novel about a family living above the San Andreas Fault, helped portray the mind-set of California as few other works have. Similar insights came in his explorations of the Pacific Rim in the nonfiction “In the Ring of Fire” as well as his documentary films about Hawaii including, “The Hawaiian Way.”

Among Mr. Houston’s many commendations were two American Book Awards and an Emmy nomination for the film version of “Manzanar.”

Born and reared in San Francisco, Mr. Houston met his wife while earning a bachelor’s degree in dramatic arts at San Jose State in 1956 – an interest he continued to develop all his life as he played guitar in local folk and bluegrass bands. After serving three years in the U.S. Air Force, he earned a master’s degree in American literature at Stanford University, where he studied with Western writer Wallace Stegner.

As a teacher over the past 40 years at many campuses, including Stanford, UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State, Mr. Houston also helped nurture generations of writers. He brought the same nurturing approach to raising his children, in a very Western way.

“My dad taught me so many things that in retrospect I see prepared me to go out into the world and be independent,” said his daughter, Corinne Houston of Santa Cruz. “He showed me how to fix a flat, how to set a gopher trap in an organic garden … that’s the way he was. Very hands-on. He wanted me to be self-sufficient.”

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Houston is survived by a son and another daughter, Joshua Houston of Honolulu and Gabrielle Houston Neville of Santa Cruz.

Services will be Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Chaminade Resort, Santa Cruz, 1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz. Memorial contributions can be sent to: Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, P.O. Box 1416, Nevada City, CA 95959.

E-mail Kevin Fagan at

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“Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History, and Prints” – Tom Killion & Gary Snyder at Book Passage in Marin, April 28

Artist Tom Killion and poet Gary Snyder give a visual presentation and discuss Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History, and Prints at Book Passage in Marin on April 28, at 7:00 p.m. The work explores Mt. Tamalpais’ natural, cultural, historic, and spiritual dimensions. “It is a book shaped by two master craftsmen collaborating on an enterprise nurtured by long and passionate involvement.” (from the Book Passage announcement).

Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Phone: (415) 927-0960

April 28, 2009, 7:00 pm

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Author event at Capitola Book Café: Eric Soderquist and Chris Burkard presnt their “California Surf Project” April 22

The Capitola Book Café will present the authors of The California Surf Project April 22, at 7:30 p.m.  From the book café’s listing:

Eric Soderquist is a professional surfer and artist who has participated as both in numerous contests, films and community events while traveling the world from Peru to Australia. Chris Burkard is a surf photographer who has worked for Surfer, Surfing, Transworld Surf,, Patagonia and Burton Snowboards; he is the winner of the Follow The Light Foundation grant (in memory of Larry Moore). Together they cajoled their Volkswagen bus along Highway 1 from the Oregon border to the Tijuana Sloughs. Their fully illustrated book is a love letter to the astounding California Coast and a testament to the passion for catching a perfect wave. This event includes a visual presentation.

1475 41st Avenue, Capitola, CA 95010