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The Literature of California, Volume 1

Native American Beginnings to 1945

Jack Hicks (Editor), James D. Houston (Editor), Maxine Hong Kingston (Editor), Al Young (Editor)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 653 pages
ISBN: 9780520222120
December 2000
$34.95, £24.95
The Literature of California is a landmark publication—unmatched by any existing collection and distinguished by its breadth, variety of sources, and historical sweep. The editors have been refreshingly inclusive and imaginative in their selection: some of the writers are internationally known, others are anthologized here for the first time. The richness of material, ranging from Native American origin myths to Hollywood novels dissecting the American Dream; from the familiar voices of John Steinbeck, Jack London, and William Saroyan to the less-well-known narratives of Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Josephine Miles, and Jade Snow Wong—all of it captures the spirit and scope of the state itself.

This first volume of the comprehensive two-volume anthology is divided into four parts. The first includes stories, legends, and songs of the indigenous tribes. The second section comprises letters, diaries, reports, and travel narratives that trace a century of exploration, discovery, and conquest. Part III includes Mother Lode tales by Mark Twain and Bret Harte, the first signs of California poetry, the rise of narrative by California women, the nature writing of John Muir and Mary Austin, and some of the earliest prose from writers of Asian background, as well as the maturing fiction of Jack London and Frank Norris. Part IV traces the period between the World Wars, when California literature came fully into its own.

A lively introduction contextualizes each section, and concise biographical material is included for each writer. Volume Two, to be published in 2007, concentrates on the second half of the twentieth-century, during which California became one of the most active literary regions in the world. A colossal contribution to the culture of the state, The Literature of California broadens our sense of this region's richness, both past and present, offering new ways of perceiving history, community, and oneself.
Jack Hicks teaches California literature and directs the Graduate Creative Program at the University of California, Davis. James D. Houston's seven books of fiction/nonfiction include Continental Drift (California, 1996) and The Last Paradise (1998), which won the American Book Award. Maxine Hong Kingston is the author of The Woman Warrior (1976), China Men (1980), and Tripmaster Monkey (1989). An early draft of her fourth novel, The Fifth Book of Peace, was destroyed in a fire; the restored version will be published in 2000-2001. Al Young's twenty books include African American literary anthologies, memoirs, collections of poetry, and the novels Sitting Pretty (1976) and Who Is Angelina? (California, 1996).
"An utterly extraordinary collection, and I have nothing but admiration and highest praise for the selection of the material, its depth and arrangement. It is comprehensive, lively, done with great zest, imagination, and a sense of responsibility toward the state and its literary heritage."—Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books

"This first volume is a big, generous, and inclusive collection that shows me a host of things that I hadn't read before."—Thom Gunn

"This long-awaited volume captures the vast panorama of thought, emotion, and eloquent musings inspired by the landscapes and crossroads culture of the Golden State. The energy and promise and adrenaline of the California dream are richly sampled here, along with its paradoxes and tragic shortcomings. This is a knock-out anthology: indispensable for anyone who cares about American literature and the place of California in the national imagination." —Michael Kowalewski, editor, Gold Rush: A Literary Exploration, and former president of the Western Literature Association

"This marvelous collection of literature creates a sense of time and place like no other in the world. California starts in native origin stories; the songs of many cultures and mighty landscapes rightly open this literary treasury. The literature of exploration, conquest, and separation is followed by the rise of romance, irony, adventure and, in the last section, a return to the stories of cultural diversity. Earthmaker, in the opening Maidu creation myth, said 'there will always be songs, and all of you will have them.' That sentiment has endured in The Literature of California." —Gerald Vizenor, University of California, Berkeley

"This first volume of The Literature of California is a brilliant and almost impossible achievement. For the first time, the amazing richness of California's literary heritage, from the intricate and beautiful stories of the first Natives to the hard-boiled fiction of Los Angeles, is illuminated here amply and unmistakably and, above all, respectfully. I am awed by these four editors' stunning labor, love for place and word, and finally, profound knowledge of their home region. Superlatives come quickly to mind--extraordinary, monumental, invaluable. I can't wait for volume two." —Louis Owens, University of New Mexico

"This anthology comes in the nick of time to re-open our minds to the radically enthusiastic, naively critical, poems, stories and tales that are giving shape to one of the most exciting new cultures on the globe. Volume One curves from the Maidu story that tells of 'Turtle Island' through Clarence King's ringing hammer and Muir's mountain devotionalism, through Jeffers' astute and cranky foresight. We get Dame Shirley's gold country letters and then the freshly appreciated Jaime de Angulo; Josephine Miles together with James F. Cain and Nathanael West! Ending this volume with the tough, acerbic prose of Chester Hymes. Finally- a book to match the land." —Gary Snyder

"The publication of this anthology--so comprehensive, so vital in its content, so illustrative of high literary experience--is in and of itself an important milestone in the evolution of California as a foundational component of American civilization. The Literature of California is more than an anthology. It suggests as well a vast public work, a Golden Gate Bridge of intellectual and imaginative materials. Here in this anthology, to paraphrase Joan Didion on UC Berkeley, can now be found one of California's best ideas on itself." —Dr. Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California

"An extraordinary volume, at once imaginative, academically sound and meticulously comprehensive."—Carolyn See, author of Golden Days

Special Commendation, California State Legislature

Silver Medal in Californiana, Commonwealth Club of California

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