Read Local: Increase your California Cred with these 10 Bay Area Books
New York City might be home to the big houses, but this scrappy city just happens to be the epicenter of publishing on the Best Coast. Join Alexis Coe every Wednesday for Read Local, a series which focused on books produced in the Bay Area.
This series celebrates Bay Area publishing, but Heyday takes it to the next level. Founded by Malcolm Margolin in 1974, the Berkeley-based, independent press publishes 25 books a year, and all of them focus on a specific part of California culture and landscape. Here are 10 diverse titles to get you started, available for purchase in most bookstores and on the Heyday website.
I love learning about the flora and fauna of my state, but find most books offering such information deliver it in a way that quickly prompts a nap. The anthology Califauna relies on well-known writers -- from John Muir to T.C. Boyle -- to tell the stories of our fellow creatures. Field notes precede each section, along with artwork ,and a timeline of animal-related milestones in California.
As it turns out, the history of Jews in America existed outside the Lower East Side. Jews in California forged communities and established identities that challenged conceptions and stereotypes: They became ranchers, miners, and cowboys. Sure, there were merchants, but there was one Jew who became the chief of an Indian tribe. Essays, art, and photographs present a nuanced view of the experience of Jews in the West.
Heyday markets Lucille Lang Day's book as a "candid and startling memoir," and readers should take them at their word. In Day's own words, "I started seriously looking for a husband when I was 12." As if that doesn't spell disaster, Day had shaped her conception of "true love" after the likes of Marlon Brando and other heroes she had seen in movies. Although you probably know how this turns out, Day's true story is an illuminating look into the life of a teenage mother who went on to hold four advanced degrees.
Wherever There's a Fight complicates California's liberal reputation. Authors Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi connect the experiences of early Chinese immigrants subjected to discriminatory laws to those of professionals who challenged McCarthyism. Workers' rights, same-sex marriage, and religious freedom are also discussed, bringing to light to often hidden stories of the individuals that transform ideals into realities.
Mt. Tamalpais casts an interesting spell on Bay Area residents and visitors. I speak of both the cheese and mountain overlooking the San Francisco Bay, but more of the latter. This certainly seems to have been the case for artist Tom Killion and author Gary Snyder. Killion's artwork seems to bear a resemblance to the art of Hokusai, but his inspiration came from decades of depicting and interpreting the mountain. Snyder has been hiking it since 1948, experiences he shares through poetry and essays. Also included: selections from Jack Kerouac, Ina Coolbrith, Kenneth Rexroth, and Lew Welch.
The photo of this book jacket doesn't do the beautiful cover art justice, which is a shame, but what's inside is what really counts: As it happens, Lake Tahoe transformed America. Many times. Events you may not otherwise associate with Lake Tahoe? The death of Marilyn Monroe and the launch of the Republican Party. It was also a literary hot spot, tempting writers from Mark Twain to Maxine Hong Kingston. Starting from the earliest Ice Age civilizations and stopping along the way to revisit the sexual revolution and the birth of the ski industry, this book covers 10,000 years quite well.