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California on the Breadlines

Dorothea Lange, Paul Taylor, and the Making of a New Deal Narrative

Jan Goggans (Author)

California on the Breadlines is the compelling account of how Dorothea Lange, the Great Depression’s most famous photographer, and Paul Taylor, her labor economist husband, forged a relationship that was private—they both divorced spouses to be together—collaborative, and richly productive. Lange and Taylor poured their considerable energies into the decade-long project of documenting the plight of California’s dispossessed, which in 1939 culminated in the publication of their landmark book, American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion. Jan Goggans blends biography, literature, and history to retrace the paths that brought Lange and Taylor together. She shows how American Exodus set forth a new way of understanding those in crisis during the economic disaster in California and ultimately informed the way we think about the Great Depression itself.
Jan Goggans is Assistant Professor of Literature at the University of California, Merced.
“Much to admire in Jan Goggan’s chronicling of the Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor partnership . . . . Breadlines makes a genuine contribution.”—Kate Sampsell-Willmann Agricultural History Review
“This is a fascinating story and immense research is evident.”—Law Society Journal
"Jan Goggans has found a wonderful way to explore the rich history of 1930s California: by giving us a deep look at the indispensable work of economist Paul Taylor and photographer Dorothea Lange, the brilliant husband-wife team whose classic from '39, An American Exodus, deserves a spot on the shelf right next to The Grapes of Wrath. With prose that's as insightful as Taylor's own and as vivid as a Lange photograph, California on the Breadlines both captures and contextualizes this hugely important period. Goggans's book will surely find its own place in the canon of Californiana."—Rick Wartzman, author of Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

"During the Great Depression, Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange took to the embattled fields of California on behalf of a suffering nation. This elegant narrative presents the national service and shared passion of two talented Americans swept up by the drama of their times and their growing discovery of each other."—Kevin Starr, University of Southern California

"A rich and gorgeous book, and an elegant treatment of the complex and fascinating personal/professional relationship between husband and wife, labor economist Paul Taylor and photographer Dorothea Lange. Their photojournalism gave face and voice to the mute shuffling in 1930s California breadlines, etching into the national mind the greatest sufferers in a decade of agony. Professor Goggans' study is seminal in 21st century California studies: thoroughly researched, critically sophisticated and global in imagination, a pleasure to pore over and read through. California on the Breadlines is a true and riveting narrative of the rare, singular partnership between Lange and Taylor."—Jack Hicks, co-editor of The Literature of California, Volume I

"This is an extraordinary book. Goggans elegantly interweaves sound scholarship with the moving human stories of California's Dust Bowl immigrants. In bringing the agony of Depression-era California home to the nation, we immediately think of John Steinbeck and Carey McWilliams. But Goggans makes it dramatically clear that Taylor and Lange, labor economist and photographer, husband and wife, fused documentary photojournalism and the traditions of protest literature to create a new form that was at least as essential in telling that story and in proposing remedies. As such, California on the Breadlines is a powerful reminder that even in terrible economic times, when Americans are willing, hope and imagination are always possible."—Peter Schrag, author of Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America

"A major contribution, meticulously researched and written. Goggans refracts the complex histories of California labor and migration through the lens of Lange and Taylor's fieldwork, landmark images, and remarkable marriage. Rare in scholarship, this book narrates history's epic arc alongside the more intimate story of Lange and Taylor, providing a wealth of insights on the Great Depression that reads like the Great American novel."—John T. Caldwell, author of Production Culture and director of Rancho California (por favor)

"California on the Breadlines offers a compelling analysis of how Lange's and Taylor's work grew out of their shared social concerns and how that work offers a unique portrait of the cultural imagination of their time—which of course, their work also helped to shape."—Terry Beers, author of Gunfight at Mussel Slough: Evolution of a Western Myth

"Goggans provides an accessible and compelling account of the path that brought Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange together and led them to dedicate their lives and work to documenting conditions of poverty in California."—Flannery Burke, author of From Greenwich Village to Taos: Primitivism and Place at Mabel Dodge Luhan's

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