Recommended Reading

James N. Gregory. American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California (1989). Gregory traces the “Okie subculture” in the San Joaquin Valley to the influx of Southwesterners (from Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas) and the cultural legacy that mixes evangelical Protestantism with hard-drinking irreverence.

Gerald Haslam. Workin' Man Blues: Country Music in California (1999). Haslam (who went to school with Merle Haggard in Oildale) writes the history of California country music from the Hollywood singing cowboys and western swing dance halls to the Bakersfield honky-tonks and rockabilly.

Peter LaChapelle. Proud to Be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California (2007). The country music scene in and around L.A. from the Dust Bowl migration to the 1970s in its political and cultural context, from Woody Guthrie to Merle Haggard, and from embracing the New Deal and ethnic musical influences to turning to more conservative social and aesthetic views.

Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City of Angels (1940:2011). While the title specifies L.A., this is really a time-travel guide to Southern California, setting the literary scene of writers like Raymond Chandler, Nathanael West, Carey McWilliams, John Fante, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Steinbeck.

Carey McWilliams. Factories in the Field (1939). The nonfiction Grapes of Wrath, Factories in the Field together with the work of Dorothea Lange and John Steinbeck shows the misery of the Dust Bowl migrants. McWilliams starts with the scandals of the Spanish land grant purchases, and tells the continuing story of various ethnic groups that have provided labor for California's agricultural industry.

Dan Morgan. Rising in the West: The True Story of an “Okie” Family from the Great Depression Through the Reagan Years (1992).Confessing a lifelong fascination with The Grapes of Wrath, Morgan set out to find what had become of the real-life Joads, discovering the Tathams and the Tacketts, two Okie families who in a few decades went from migrant fruit picking to middle-class prosperity.

Sonia Nazario. Enrique's Journey (2007). Based on newspaper articles that won two Pulitzer Prizes, Enrique's Journey updates the migrant story to today's immigration debate. A Honduran boy looks for his mother eleven years after she leaves her starving family to find work in the U.S.

Buck Owens. Buck Em: The Autobiography of Buck Owens (2013). Owens tells the story of his life in his own words, from early days in Texas and Arizona to building a music business empire on the “Streets of Bakersfield.”

Susan Shillinglaw. On Reading The Grapes of Wrath (forthcoming, 2014). Shillinglaw explores the cultural, social, political, scientific, and creative impact of the publication of Steinbeck's classic, as well as its legacy. (The author mentions the CSUB's celebration plans.)

Marisa Silver. Mary Coin (2013). Inspired by Dorothea Lange's “Migrant Mother” photograph, Silver's novel tells the story of a young woman resting with her children by a roadside in 1936 when she is photographed by another woman documenting migrant laborers and what happens afterward.

Jerry Stanley. Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (2000). The story of how Superintendent Leo Hart built a school for the ostracized “dumb Okies” at the farm-labor camp depicted in The Grapes of Wrath, complete with swimming pool and airplane.

Kevin Starr. Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California (1997). Starr narrates the drama of California history during the 1930s, its political unrest and social upheaval, with the specters of fascist and communist radicalism playing out in a broad, statewide context.

John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The epic novel that started it all.

John Steinbeck. Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1990). Steinbeck's daily journal describes the creative process and personal adventures of writing his masterpiece and the troubling aftermath of its controversial success.

Gene Tackett, The Bakersfield Californian.  Chris Livingston, "Carrying on the Legacy of the California Odyssey Project at California State University, Bakersfield" 

Rick Wartzman. Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (2008). A gripping story about the courage of a Kern County librarian, Gretchen Knief, who strove to keep Steinbeck's novel in circulation after it was publicly burned in Bakersfield and briefly banned by the Kern County supervisors.