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Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden Hardcover – February 7, 2005

3.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Douglas Sackman peels an orange and finds inside nothing less than an American agricultural-industrial culture in all its inventive, exploitative, transformative, and destructive power. A beautifully researched and intellectually expansive book." - Elliott West, author of The Contested Plains"

From the Inside Flap

"Douglas Sackman peels an orange and finds inside nothing less than an American agricultural-industrial culture in all its inventive, exploitative, transformative, and destructive power. A beautifully researched and intellectually expansive book."—Elliott West, author of The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, & the Rush to Colorado
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 401 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (February 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520238869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520238862
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,946,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am an historian who writes about the American West, environmental history, Native American History, and the Pacific.

My new book, Wild Men: Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America, looks at the intertwined lives and landscapes of the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and the Yahi Indian man named Ishi. It considers America's fascination with Ishi as a mirror of its ambivalence about modernity and the "winning of the west." You can read more about it on the blog.

My first book, Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden, is a cultural and environmental history of California focusing on its iconic export--the Sunkist orange. It received the Martin Ridge Award, given to books considered classics or future classics in California history, by the Historical Society of Southern California.

I have also edited the Blackwell Companion to American Environmental History, a collection of 32 essays by leading historians designed as a state of the field report for the young sub-discipline of environmental history. I wrote the chapter on food and co-authored the one on gender for this book, which is due out in May of 2010.

I am a Professor of History at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma Washington, and previously taught at Oberlin College, the University of California at Irvine, and Claremont Graduate University.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A surprisingly readable book about California's Orange Empire. Covers the rise and fall of citrus growing in Southern California. The expected topics are covered, such as how the industry started, the beginnings of Sunkist, how Sunkist created a national demand for fresh citrus fruit year-round, etc. There is an remarkable section on the Depression and the attempts to unionize citrus workers. John Steinbeck even makes an appearance. I assumed the book would be a bit dry, but this wasn't the case at all. Those living in, or those who have an interest in the history of Southern California should read this book. I hope there is a paperback version of this book coming. The hardcover price is steep.
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Format: Paperback
This is another excellent book from the University of California Press. It's well written, fairly well illustrated and the best way to describe it is a merger of environmental history, agricultural history and marketing history. These connections, to me, make it a more interesting book.

Or actually two books. The first portion describes how the orange industry began and grew, and has fascinating detail on marketing, how the fruit became a national food. This includes the ups and downs of business, publicity and more. The second portion is more about the struggles with labor, featuring cameo appearances by John Steinbeck and Dorothea Lange. The book manages to contain both of the stories rather well. It amounts to how widely should the fruits of Eden be shared. The story begins around 1870 and stops in the 1930s.

In a sense this is a story about the stories told, of deliberate images (the development of Sunkist, for example, is detailed, and is fascinating). The story of oranges was told as an element of heath and goodness and of California sun. The story of the labor disputes in a sense is of two conflicting world views, the orange turned sour.

This California has vanished under the weight of development and population increases, but it is an informative account of an earlier version of the state, one in which storytelling was as important as today.
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Format: Paperback
Douglas Sackman’s Orange Empire weaves the story of agriculture and big industry's relationship with the landscape and culture of early California. This book covers the growth and consequences of big agricultural orange production in California, specifically identifying struggles of the environment and land, labor, race, economics and politics in early California history. Sackman extensively discusses the construction of the marketing identity of the orange, romanticizing California and the fruit, transforming the fruit into an “Americana”, “American dream” lifestyle staple. Sackman discusses the realities beyond the ideal of the fabricated orange delving deeper into socioeconomic impacts of a mass agriculture and capitalistic policy on the state that impacted and contributed to the national precedent. Further, Sackman discusses the downfall of the industry following the Great Depression and shifts in popular culture.

Overall, the book tells an interesting story through the rise and fall of the industry challenging the constructed utopian idealism of the orange through Sackmans analysis of the exploitative practices of big industry on nature and culture. It can be a bit of a dry read but Sackman uses vivid imagery, that transports you to the landscape and time. The book is extensively researched and cited, providing great resources for further exploring of the subject. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the development of California and the history of big agriculture, labor and the environment.
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