Tuesday, March 01, 2016

John Steinbeck's Enduring Voice for California

When considering the canon, which American author comes to mind? For most Californians, this is author is John Steinbeck. He captured an image of California that is still completely relevant today. When considering why Steinbeck is a voice for California, we must think of Salinas, CA. Salinas represents all the hard labour that is found in California’s agriculture industry. This labour ripples through generations for Californians—it represents the issues with culture and race. 

Homer from Salinas is a wonderful collection of lectures, screenings, debates, discussions, and visual artifacts from incredibly insightful people. This celebration for Steinbeck's work was held from April to May in 2007 at SDSU. The book is organized into four parts—each part with several pieces that are on different themes dealing with issues such as labour, race, and class.  Most of Steinbeck’s work is covered in this collection. What is most important, is that this collection explores the relevancy of his work and what it means for Californian culture. Part Two of the book has discussions about Mexican-American culture. Hernán Moreno-Hinojosa describes his challenges with Steinbeck, but also praises him for writing about all minorities, not just Mexicans or people displaced by the dustbowl. He also discusses the parallels between his own writing to Steinbeck’s. It is discussions like this one that are found in this collection that illustrate the impact of Steinbeck’s writing to all minorities. What these discussions provide, are new insights from a set of diverse thinkers. This diversity is explored in Part Three, “Watching Steinbeck’s Ethnic Eye.” Different scholars raise different points about the ethnicity in Steinbeck’s work. The collections ends with a presentation on an exhibition that includes Horace Bristol’s photography. The exhibition documents California’s farm labor experience. The presentation goes into great detail about the migrant laborers of California. 

I, personally, come from a family of immigrants and I have family members that worked in agriculture. They traveled constantly up and down the California coast: Salinas, Monterey, Guadalupe, etc. When I read Steinbeck, I consider everything my family went through once they got to California. Whether you’re a Mexican-American or a Californian, Steinbeck’s work is more than worth reading. This collection proves that Steinbeck is still completely relevant when talking about present-day issues. So if you’re a Steinbeck scholar or want a new perspective into Steinbeck’s work, get your hands on this wonderful collection. 

This collection includes pieces by Jeffery Charles, Charles Wollenberg, William Deverell, Francisco X. Alarcón, Hernán Moreno-Honjosa, plus many more. 

The book can be found for purchase here

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