Was the "Grapes of Wrath" a nonfiction work disguised as a novel? Apparently, the County Board of Supervisors in Kern County California thought just that. The book, and Steinbeck, irritated them to the point that they decided to ban the work and prohibit its sale from bookstores (not that there were many in Bakersfield then) and distribution of the work from the library system.
Why, however, did the book cause such irritation amongst the county supervisors and why were they in such an immense hurry to get it away from the public? The answers to those questions are the backbone of this wonderful work on a shameful chapter in American history.
The author examines, in totality, the world of the San Joaquin Valley in the late 1930s and how a single novel could turn much of the State of California into a battleground for workers and farmers alike. From the Okies pouring into the Valley by the car load and trying to survive by any means possible to the farmers fighting to keep prices high and labor costs low, the complex story of this war in the Valley is told in a wonderful manner that makes the book extremely readable while documenting history in detail.
I could write about the debates that raged in the Valley (and the state) about communism, socialism, fascism and other "isms", but that would be a spoiler to this wonderful book. In many ways the message in this work of history is as applicable today as it was 80 years ago.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough and think it may be one of the best non fiction works published in 2008. Buy it, explore it and enjoy it. I know the teachers at my local high school are already in a frenzy to read this and they won't be disappointed.
Many of today;s readers look at classics like Grapes of Wrath and simply regard it as a must-read. But how was this once contraversial book received in the rich California farm country? This aurhor ceetainly did his homework. History came alive with a new perspective on this book that is so beautifully written it has stood the test of time.
I know the history of this event well as I've researched and studied it at some depth. It's a tale we should all read, and Wartzman has taken it to the bone, leaving no stone unturned to get to the heart of the burning of The Grapes of Wrath on the courthouse steps, and into the mind of Gretchen Knief. It was particularly interesting to me as I actually was acquainted with some of the players (enjoying Christmas parties at the Camps stately home), grew up with their children, and maybe more importantly was the child of Okies who, like the Joads, came west to escape the dust bowl. My congratulations to Rick Wartzman for an exemplary job.
the two copies I bought arrived has promised. Kept one and gave the other to a friend. It is hard to believe local officials in 1939 could ban books like the Grapes of Wrath a Pulitzer Prize winner. Very thought provoking from David L.
An excellent read. Great to learn about the Grapes of Wrath and migration of Dust Bowl residents in the context of what was happening in the country and in the world at that time. Many parallels to today.