California History is pleased to announce that Amanda Marie Martinez’s “Suburban Cowboy: Country Music, Punk, and the Struggle over Space in Orange County, 1978–1981” (California History, vol. 98, no. 1, 83-97) has won the journal’s Richard J. Orsi prize, for the best article published in California History in the past year.

Award committee member Glen Gendzel praises the essay for exploring the nexus of music, culture, and politics in Orange County to draw profound observations about not just a simple clash over musical preferences but a conflict over the merits of suburban life, with country music fans embracing suburbanism, while punk rockers rejected the mundane orderliness of suburbs. Plumbing the significance of an exploding punk rock scene in the heart of Reagan country, the article argues persuasively that at a time when conservatism appeared to dominate social, cultural, and political life, hardcore punk rock offered one of the first cultural waves of resistance to the conservatism of that era.

According to award committee member Barbara Berglund Sokolov, “Suburban Cowboy” innovatively brings together analyses of two antipodal musical genres, country and punk, elegantly combining a cultural history approach with insights from urban and political history to reveal how music was a battleground in Orange County, across which Martinez tracks differing responses to suburban living and to the conservatism of the Reagan era in Orange County.

Amanda Marie Martinez notes, “This piece was especially personal for me. My mom was a punk rocker and had me at a young age. I grew up listening to both punk rock and country music and grew to love both, so I had a lot of fun writing this piece. I am thrilled to receive this positive reinforcement of my work.”

We invite you to read Martinez’s award-winning article for free online for a limited time.

The Richard J. Orsi Prize was established to honor the state’s preeminent historian and former editor of California History. Orsi authored and edited dozens of scholarly articles and numerous anthologies of essays about California, including Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850–1930 (UC Press: 2005), Yosemite and Sequoia: A Century of California National Parks (1993), and the four-volume California History Sesquicentennial Series, co-published by University of California Press and the California Historical Society between 1998 and 2003.