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Before leaving Kansas to come to California for college, I got a warning from my best friend's father: "Be careful," he said. "California is full of crazies and wackos." Nonplussed, I reminded myself that he had grown up in Kansas and had never seen California. All he knew was what Hollywood and the media had represented to him, so I came out here anyway, convinced that there would be more to California than, well, crazies and wackos.
Turns out I was right.
However, after being exposed to the state-based prejudices of others, I thought that it would be a great idea to help give California the wide representation that it deserves. So when my American Literature professor told the class about the California Legacy Project internship, I couldn't pass up such an opportunity. Understanding such a distinct and diverse state requires hearing a number of distinct and diverse voices. The California Legacy Project (CLP), administered by Series Editor and Project Director Terry Beers, a professor of English at SCU, and Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books, aims to present all aspects of California to a wide general audience.
Heyday Books, an independent Berkeley publishing company started in 1974 by Malcolm Margolin, is devoted solely to works about California. When Margolin decided to start Heyday 30 years ago, "there was this real do-ityourself fervor," he says. "People were making their own tofu. I remember there was one guy who spent three weeks carving his own chopsticks." The story of how CLP came to fruition is a little less colorful, although not less inspired: After Beers edited and wrote the introduction for Unfolding Beauty: Celebrating California's Landscapes (published by Heyday in October, 2000), he and Margolin got the idea to build a publishing partnership between Heyday Books and Santa Clara University. Thus, in 1999 the California Legacy Project was born.
Says Beers: "I felt that a partnership with Heyday Books would benefit the community by educating a broad audience about California's cultural legacy, which is in line with SCU's commitment to public service."
Santa Clara University President Paul Locatelli, S.J., says he is pleased with the project as well. "This is an outstanding project that will make a lasting and important contribution to the rich and diverse legacy of California," he says.
While both Heyday Books and CLP endeavor to promote California literature and history, California Legacy is especially committed to raising the profile of California writers and creating new anthologies, such as Under the Fifth Sun: Latino Literature from California, edited by Rick Heide with a foreword by Juan Velasco (a professor of English and modern languages at SCU). Released last year, Under the Fifth Sun received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, as well as a special commendation from the City Council of San Jose. Another California Legacy volume is a reprint of the 1941 novel Storm, by George R. Stewart. This new edition includes a foreword by Ernest Callenbach; one example of California Legacy reprinting important, hard-tolocate works about the Golden State. Besides anthologies and direct reprints of California works, single-author "readers" are another specialty. Unfinished Message: Selected Works of Toshio Mori, with an introduction by Lawson Fusao Inada, is an example of such an undertaking.
Besides the 18 works that have been co-published by the California Legacy Project and Heyday Books, CLP is involved in community outreach as well. In July 2003, CLP partnered with the Pacific Grove public radio station KAZU (90.3 FM) to produce brief dramatic readings from classic California literature. At first, the radio segments, which feature professional actors (including two SCU alumni, Jessica Teeter '96 and William Leslie Howard '82), aired each Friday morning and reached approximately 70,000 listeners in four California counties. The readings will now air daily, and there is a good possibility that the program will be syndicated. This project promises to help fulfill CLP's mission "to increase public appreciation of California's literary and historical legacy and to promote the critical understanding of California diversity." The radio segments are available in an online archive at www.californialegacy.org.
The California Legacy Project also hosts events that cater to a wide, diverse audience. On April 17, CLP partnered with the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge for an event called "Natural History Day," co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies Program at SCU and the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation. Author Rebecca Solnit was the guest speaker and read selections from her work, which includes Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Attendees also enjoyed guided nature hikes and sightseeing at the event, linking literature with firsthand experience of the landscape.
This event follows several successful events in past years, one of which was the release of Under the Fifth Sun. Held in December 2002 at the Mexican Cultural Plaza and co-sponsored by the Mexican Heritage Corporation and the Center for California Studies (California State University, Sacramento), the event featured readings by Francisco Jimenez (Fay Boyle Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at SCU), Juan Velasco (professor of English and modern languages at SCU), María Amparo Escandón, and Francisco Alarcón. "The connection that California Legacy Project makes with the public is so important," says Velasco of the series. "The most gratifying aspect of the project, however, is when events such as the release of Under the Fifth Sun occur and hundreds of people from the community show up. CLP encourages a perfect synergy between scholarship and the community."
Other events have included an evening of readings celebrating Dark God of Eros: A William Everson Reader held in May 2003. Co-sponsored by the Santa Clara Review and the Center for California Studies, the event took place at the de Saisset Museum and featured Stanford University's Albert Gelpi and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Another major event sponsored by CLP was an evening with author Maxine Hong Kingston in November 2001. The author of such works as The Woman Warrior and China Men, and the co-editor of The Literature of California, Volume 1: Native American Beginnings to 1945, Kingston captivated a large audience comprised of the general public, scholars, and historians.
One of the main goals of CLP is to cross boundaries between disciplines in order to offer a more comprehensive knowledge of the state of California. One of the ways that CLP does this is by partnering not only with Heyday Books, but also with the Center for California Studies in Sacramento. Dedicated to promoting a better understanding of California's government, politics, peoples, cultures, and history, the center is a natural partner for the California Legacy Project. CLP also strives to achieve an interdisciplinary focus by involving scholars in the project who come from many separate areas of expertise. Members of the Project Council, CLP's advisory committee, include professors and staff from SCU's Department of Modern Languages, the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, the Department of History, the Environmental Studies Institute, and Orradre Library. James Koch, Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, and professor of management, describes why he joined CLP: "California is a petri dish of social, technological, and political innovation," he says. "Its rich diversity makes it a sort of microcosm of the world, and studying it can provide a sense of interconnectedness in our borderless world."
Alice Whistler, reference subject specialist at Orradre Library, joined the project because she believes California literature deserves more indepth study. "The library has a great collection of California fiction that so far hasn't gotten any serious academic attention," she says. "I would love to see it used more."
Although CLP keeps busy spreading the word about California culture through various collaborations, events, and radio segments, the most essential way the California Legacy Project is promoting California's heritage is through its book series. The two most recently released books have earned acclaim. California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present, edited by National Endowment for the Arts chief Dana Gioia, Chryss Yost, and Jack Hicks, was deemed "instantly indispensable" by the San Francisco Chronicle. David Kipen of the Chronicle called Mark Twain's San Francisco, edited by Bernard Taper and illustrated by Edward Jump, "a tasty reissue."
Future books include a reader about the Mussel Slough gunfight in Central California, and a reprint of Harry Leon Wilson's 1923 Hollywood satire, Merton of the Movies. Beers and KAZU Pacific Grove are also preparing a radio play of Merton to be broadcast in the fall. An Upton Sinclair anthology is also in the works for fall. Additionally, CLP has applied for grants to produce anthologies about California cartooning and California ranch life.
CLP also benefits students interested in research and publishing. Dana Wolfe, 2001 SCU valedictorian and 2000-01 CLP intern, says his experience as an intern was valuable. "I consider my internship experience more than an opportunity to learn about a field I hope to enter professionally," he says. "It is also one of the finest classes I have ever taken." Nancy Nino '96, assistant director of alumni relations at SCU, interned in 2001-02, while she was working on a master of fine arts degree from San Jose State University. She seconds Wolfe's opinion, saying, "I learned a lot about the process of researching and data collection."
Since I want to enter the publishing world myself, I have found the internship with CLP to be absolutely invaluable. From writing articles and radio segments to scanning and editing text, I have learned much about the book publishing industry and California's heritage as well.
In the English and history departments, SCU offers both "California Literature" and an upperdivision history course entitled "California." However, according to Beers, these subjects are too often regarded to have merely "regional" interest. This is due, says Juan Velasco, to the bias against the West. "There is a stereotype of the West not having anything to contribute to culture," explains Velasco. "We need to work on expanding the [literary] canon and moving beyond biases. The canon is beginning to include voices of ethnic minorities, but the canon needs to incorporate voices from different regions also-not just east and west, but north and south too."
California has a rich heritage, with a literary history going back 400 years. By studying California literature and history, we will not only challenge traditional conceptions of east and west, but will come to appreciate more of the works of California authors.
"California literature contains many universal themes," says Beers. "The state was built on a dream, and anyone can relate to that, whether or not they're a Californian."
Even somebody from Kansas.
Kristin Lenore is a senior at SCU and a native of Kansas. For more information, see www.californialegacy.org.