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The Cultural Legacy of The Grapes of Wrath

October 16, 2014 - "The Cultural Legacy of The Grapes of Wrath," an interdisciplinary academic conference, will take place at CSU Bakersfield on November 7 and 8. Funded by Klein DeNatale Goldner, Attorneys-at-Law, the conference will culminate a one-year commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck's controversial novel about the struggles of an Oklahoma farm family who fled the Dust Bowl and sought work and dignity in California's Central Valley. Its themes of migration, hardship, discrimination, and migrant labor, have inspired academic papers by scholars from as far away as Japan, Tunisia, and Slovenia, including CSUB faculty and students. In addition, seven noted authors will deliver keynote addresses on the great migration, the Bakersfield Sound and Steinbeck and his novel, including its banning in Kern Country. Keynote lectures will be free and open to the public, held in the Dezember Reading Room of the Walter Stiern Library. Russo's Books will be on hand selling selected books by our guest authors, as well as local histories.

Conference options include a Dust Bowl Package, taking participants-- either Thursday November 6th, or Saturday November 8th--, on a thematic tour of relevant sites in the area.  Beginning with a tour of the Sunset Camp, guided by 2014's CSUB Sculptor-in-Residence Cameron Brian, tour guests will enjoy dinner at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, and end the evening at CSUB with the theatrical production of From Dust Thou Art. Conference registration includes all meals and takes place on campus Friday November 7th from 8 AM to 9 PM and Saturday November 8th from 8 AM to 2 PM. For more information, see our official website: Tickets and Registration are available through November 1st.

The conference is the work of the Public History Institute (PHI) at CSUB and the School of Arts and Humanities, whose dean, Richard Collins, has provided significant support and direction. The brainchild of then-Interim Dean Ed Sasaki in 2008, the Public History Institute has focused its efforts on highlighting the rich history of our region and its communities, particularly through developing CSUB's oral history collection, of which the Odyssey Project of the early 1980s has been a significant resource for scholars of the Dust Bowl era. In 2009, the PHI collaborated with leaders in Oildale to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that community, important not only for oil, but also for the Bakersfield Sound, which took center stage through Bob Price's interview of Merle Haggard and Marty Stuart. Currently directed by history professor Miriam Raub Vivian and a committee of faculty, librarians, and community advisors, the PHI began several years ago to discuss the idea of an academic conference in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of Steinbeck's 1939 novel. Eventually this idea blossomed into an entire year of events, both on campus and in the community, tied together by the novel and its themes and effects.

Thus was born the Grapes of Wrath Project, now inching toward its conclusion. It began, however, one year ago this month, with a campus reception for the National Steinbeck Center's Joad Odyssey, retracing the route of the Steinbeck's fictional family by an artist, a filmmaker, and a writer, all of whom shared their Odyssey experiences with audiences along their path. Since then, the Bakersfield calendar has been populated with all things "Grapes" related: concerts (bluegrass, Dave Alvin, Merle Haggard, Arlo Guthrie, Marty Stuart, and--coming November 23--the Bakersfield Youth Symphony Orchestra), theater productions (Dust Bowl Dreams and--coming November 6-9--From Dust Thou Art), lectures (Walter Presents, History Forum, California Writers' Series, and Kegley Institute of Ethics), museum exhibits (Horace Bristol at the BMOA and--coming October 24--Bakersfield Built: Architecture of the 1930s at CSUB), art installations on campus, and even science demonstrations ("The Science of the Dust Bowl," presented by PG&E and CSUB's School of Natural Sciences, Math, and Engineering). The annual One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern and CSUB's Runner Reader are also involved, featuring Enrique's Journey, a true story by journalist Sonia Nazario about a boy's more recent migration from Mexico to California. (Her lecture is in CSUB's Icardo Center at 7pm on October 30.)

For information on CSUB's Grapes of Wrath Project and the remaining events of 2014, see our webpage:

For Tickets to select upcoming events please visit:

For More Information

Contact CSUB Public Affairs
(661) 654-2136