John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, CA, in 1902. Steinbeck realized that the migration caused by the Dust Bowl was drastically changing the labor forces of California from the foreign "cheap labor" to a higher standard of living for the farm workers. He felt for these migrant workers, and with the help of a friend, Tom Collins, unsuccessfully tried to get federal aid and sympathy, as shown in the articles of The Harvest Gypsies. Steinbeck continued in his crusade, publishing The Grapes of Wrath, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. Charles Wollenberg, former Chair of Social Sciences and Professor of History at Berkeley City College, is coeditor, with Marcia A. Eymann, of What's Going On? California and the Vietnam Era (University of California Press, 2004) and author of Marinship at War: Shipbuilding and Social Change in Wartime Sausalito (Western Heritage, 1990) and Berkeley: A City in History (University of California Press, 2008).
In 1936, a San Francisco newspaper commissioned Steinbeck to write a week-long series of articles about California's underclass of white migrant farm workers, who became the models and the inspiration for The Grapes of Wrath. Reprinted here, Steinbeck's observations of migrant families and of their exploitation by wealthy agriculturists have not lost their potency. And as Wollenberg, a history professor at Vista College, Berkeley, Calif., points out, the plight of the newly destitute and newly homeless has particular relevance today. Steinbeck's journalism shares the enduring quality of his famous novel (but critics of Steinbeck will beware; his heavy-handed style is only slightly less obtrusive here). Especially interesting are the final articles, which analyze the history of California's migrant populations and propose federal programs to alleviate their distress. Steinbeck's outrage leads to an emotional indictment of then-current farm management as ``a system of terrorism that would be unusual in the Fascist nations of the world.'' Certain to engage students of both American literature and labor history. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
"Contains some of Steinbeck's best journalism." -- -- "The
"Steinbeck's journalism shares the enduring quality of his famous novel." -- -- "Publishers Weekly"
"Written in the best tradition of advocacy journalism Steinbeck moves among the migrants, pen in one hand, fruit pail in the other, alternately picking and penning his way to literary glory." -- -- "The Village Voice"