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Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California (Americans and the California Dream) [Paperback]

by Kevin Starr
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 13, 1997 0195118022 978-0195118025
California, Wallace Stegner observed, is like the rest of the United States, only more so. Indeed, the Golden State has always seemed to be a place where the hopes and fears of the American dream have been played out in a bigger and bolder way. And no one has done more to capture this epic story than Kevin Starr, in his acclaimed series of gripping social and cultural histories. Now Starr carries his account into the 1930s, when the political extremes that threatened so much of the Depression-ravaged world--fascism and communism--loomed large across the California landscape.
In Endangered Dreams, Starr paints a portrait that is both detailed and panoramic, offering a vivid look at the personalities and events that shaped a decade of explosive tension. He begins with the rise of radicalism on the Pacific Coast, which erupted when the Great Depression swept over California in the 1930s. Starr captures the triumphs and tumult of the great agricultural strikes in the Imperial Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, Stockton, and Salinas, identifying the crucial role played by Communist organizers; he also shows how, after some successes, the Communists disbanded their unions on direct orders of the Comintern in 1935. The highpoint of social conflict, however, was 1934, the year of the coastwide maritime strike, and here Starr's narrative talents are at their best, as he brings to life the astonishing general strike that took control of San Francisco, where workers led by charismatic longshoreman Harry Bridges mounted the barricades to stand off National Guardsmen. That same year socialist Upton Sinclair won the Democratic nomination for governor, and he launched his dramatic End Poverty in California (EPIC) campaign. In the end, however, these challenges galvanized the Right in a corporate, legal, and vigilante counterattack that crushed both organized labor and Sinclair. And yet, the Depression also brought out the finest in Californians: state Democrats fought for a local New Deal; California natives helped care for more than a million impoverished migrants through public and private programs; artists movingly documented the impact of the Depression; and an unprecedented program of public works (capped by the Golden Gate Bridge) made the California we know today possible.
In capturing the powerful forces that swept the state during the 1930s--radicalism, repression, construction, and artistic expression--Starr weaves an insightful analysis into his narrative fabric. Out of a shattered decade of economic and social dislocation, he constructs a coherent whole and a mirror for understanding our own time.

Frequently Bought Together

Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California (Americans and the California Dream) + Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950 (Americans and the California Dream) + The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s (Americans and the California Dream)
Price for all three: $69.82

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Great Depression struck California hard, just as it did countless other states and nations. It also helped remake California, writes Kevin Starr in this fourth installment of his multivolume history of the state. The Depression brought a massive influx of hopeful refugees to California from elsewhere in the United States, including 300,000 new agricultural workers--the people of John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. These newcomers worked in the fields and stores for fifteen cents an hour while Hollywood made movies about their lot, Woody Guthrie sang songs about them, and union organizers tried hard to make a labor-based revolution. The fortunes of these "Okies" is just one of the sweeping topics that Starr, a fine writer and imaginative chronicler, takes on in this book. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

California during the Depression was a battleground where socialists, labor activists and free-speech advocates faced often violent resistance from a militant right using vigilante squads, tear gas- wielding police, suppression of civil liberties, and antiunion crackdowns. In a vibrant, engrossing chronicle (the fifth volume in his Americans and the Californian Dream series), Starr, California's State Librarian, reclaims the Depression-era Golden State as an important chapter in the American experiment. He charts the struggles of Wobblies, of striking waterfront workers and of thousands of migrant dust-bowl, Mexican and Filipino farmworkers who challenged the agribusiness oligarchy. Socialist novelist Upton Sinclair's 1934 gubernatorial bid on the Democratic ticket, buttressing his End Poverty in California (EPIC) campaign, was defeated by a combination of big money and Hollywood fund-raising. Although California, then a right-of-center Republican state, resisted Roosevelt's New Deal, its migrant camps aided the displaced poor, and an unprecedented public works program revitalized the economy, creating schools, dams, parks, urban improvement projects and the Golden Gate Bridge. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Americans and the California Dream
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (November 13, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195118022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195118025
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific summary of California's Labor history December 10, 1998
This fourth chapter in Starr's "Americans and the California Dream" is the best yet. I was paticularly interested, in what Starr sees as the States battle between the forces of communism and fascism. The text reads like an account of a some great war, following each battle and skirmish throughout the State. I would recommend this work to anyone who is seriously interested in California or Labor history.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn something new today! July 17, 1998
By A Customer
I finally got around to reading "The Grapes of Wrath" and was ashamed to realize that the context of the story was all new to me. Right about then, Kevin Starr's book came out and was reviewed in my local paper. He's done a great, steady job of illuminating the rise of the unions and the treatment of the Okies. The only major flaw I found was the lack of a map of California included in the book. I'm from the east coast and found it difficult to keep the place names straight without a ready reference.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Californians, Learn Your State's History September 17, 2003
By A Customer
Kevin Starr's continuing work on the history of California since 1850 continues to impress me and fill me with interesting and useful knowledge about the state. Being a resident of the state, it is relatively easy for me to keep following the thread and the meaning of names and locations. I can imagine this would be somewhat more difficult for readers not as familiar with our state. The story of the waterfront strikes in San Francisco and the farming/migrant/labor issues of the 1930s are very compelling and should be easily understood by readers regardless of where they are from. The issues dealing with our water supply and other water management issues as well as those dealing with large public works within the state, can pose a bigger challenge for those readers.
As with his other volumes, Mr. Starr doesn't just give us straight-ahead, factual history. In my view, he is especially good at giving incidental stories about some of the players involved in a way that keeps the reader more interested. Immediately after finishing the book I went to the internet to find out more about people like photographer Dorothea Lange and the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. That is what I ask of books like these: that they teach me about things I don't know much about and that they cause me to follow up and learn more about some of the topics within the book.
One learns reading this particular volume that the current quirkiness of California (governor recalls, liberalism, social diversity) is not something that just developed in the 1970s. We had recall movements back in the 1930s as well and some ugliness comes through regarding racism and discrimination in this state that sometimes thinks so highly of itself in that area.
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5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent overview of the Depression in California January 15, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Kevin Starr's series of California history books are well-written, and thoroughly researched. I plan to buy all of them so I can follow how each age determined the ones that follow it. Well done and very interesting!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Kevin Starr winner June 1, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Any history book by Kevin Starr is worth reading. I'm working my way through all of them. He is the greatest California historian ever!
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