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California Mennonites Cover

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California Mennonites

Brian Froese

Books about Mennonites have centered primarily on the East Coast and the Midwest, where the majority of Mennonite communities in the United States are located. But these narratives neglect the unique history of the multitude of Mennonites living on the West Coast. In California Mennonites, Brian Froese relies on archival church records to examine the Mennonite experience in the Golden State, from the nineteenth-century migrants who came in search of sunshine and fertile soil to the traditionally agrarian community that struggled with issues of urbanization, race, gender, education, and labor in the twentieth century to the evangelically oriented, partially assimilated Mennonites of today. Froese places Mennonite experiences against a backdrop of major historical events, including World War II and Vietnam, and social issues, from labor disputes to the evolution of mental health care. California Mennonites include people who embrace a range of ideologies: many are historically rooted in the sixteenth-century Reformation ideals of the early Anabaptists (pacifism, congregationalism, discipleship); some embrace twentieth-century American evangelicalism (missions, Billy Graham); and others are committed to a type of social justice that involves forging practical ties to secular government programs while maintaining a quiet connection to religion. Through their experiences of religious diversity, changing demographics, and war, California Mennonites have wrestled with complicated questions of what it means to be American, Mennonite, and modern. This book—the first of its kind—will appeal to historians and religious studies scholars alike.

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California on the Breadlines

Dorothea Lange, Paul Taylor, and the Making of a New Deal Narrative

Jan Goggans

California on the Breadlines is the compelling account of how Dorothea Lange, the Great Depression’s most famous photographer, and Paul Taylor, her labor economist husband, forged a relationship that was private—they both divorced spouses to be together—collaborative, and richly productive. Lange and Taylor poured their considerable energies into the decade-long project of documenting the plight of California’s dispossessed, which in 1939 culminated in the publication of their landmark book, American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion. Jan Goggans blends biography, literature, and history to retrace the paths that brought Lange and Taylor together. She shows how American Exodus set forth a new way of understanding those in crisis during the economic disaster in California and ultimately informed the way we think about the Great Depression itself.

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California Polyphony

Ethnic Voices, Musical Crossroads

Mina Yang

What does it mean to be "Californian"? Mina Yang suggests an answer that lies at the intersection of musicology, cultural history, and politics. Consisting of a series of musical case studies of major ethnic groups in California, this book approaches the notion of Californian identity from diverse perspectives, each nuanced by class, gender, and sexuality. This most populous and most affluent state in the Union has been setting musical and cultural trends for decades, and Yang's study thoughtfully illuminates the multiculutral nature of its musics.

California Rising Cover

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California Rising

The Life and Times of Pat Brown

Ethan Rarick

It is now commonplace to say that the future happens first in California, and this book, the first biography of legendary governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, tells the story of the pivotal era when that idea became a reality. Set against the riveting historical landscape of the late fifties and sixties, the book offers astute insights into history as well a fascinating glimpse of those who charted its course—including Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and the Brown family dynasty. Ethan Rarick mines an impressive array of untapped sources—such as Pat Brown's diary and love letters to his wife—to tell the unforgettable story of a true mover-and-shaker within his fascinating and turbulent political arena.

California Rising illuminates a singular moment in time with surprising intimacy. John Kennedy laughs with Pat Brown. Richard Nixon offers the governor a schemer's deal. Lyndon Johnson sweet-talks the governor on the phone and then ridicules him behind his back. And as context for the human drama, key events of the era unfold in gripping prose. There is Brown's struggle with the fate of Caryl Chessman, the convicted kidnapper who gained international attention by writing best-selling books on death row. There is the tale of intrigue and politics surrounding the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, and the violence and horror of the Watts Riots in 1965.

Through the story of the life and times of Pat Brown, we witness an extraordinary period that changed the entire country's view of itself and its most famous state.

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California Women and Politics

From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression

Edited by Robert W. Cherny, Mary Ann Irwin, and Ann Marie Wilson

In 1911 as progressivism moved toward its zenith, the state of California granted women the right to vote. However, women’s political involvement in California’s public life did not begin with suffrage, nor did it end there. Across the state, women had been deeply involved in politics long before suffrage, and—although their tactics and objectives changed—they remained deeply involved thereafter. California Women and Politics examines the wide array of women’s public activism from the 1850s to 1929—including the temperance movement, moral reform, conservation, trade unionism, settlement work, philanthropy, wartime volunteerism, and more—and reveals unexpected contours to women’s politics in California. The contributors consider not only white middle-class women’s organizing but also the politics of working-class women and women of color, emphasizing that there was not one monolithic “women’s agenda,” but rather a multiplicity of women’s voices demanding recognition for a variety of causes.

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California’s Fading Wildflowers

Lost Legacy and Biological Invasions

Richard A. Minnich

Early Spanish explorers in the late eighteenth century found springtime California covered with spectacular carpets of wildflowers from San Francisco to San Diego. Yet today, invading plant species have devastated this nearly forgotten botanical heritage. In this lively, vividly detailed work, Richard A. Minnich synthesizes a unique and wide-ranging array of sources—from the historic accounts of those early explorers to the writings of early American botanists in the nineteenth century, newspaper accounts in the twentieth century, and modern ecological theory—to give the most comprehensive historical analysis available of the dramatic transformation of California's wildflower prairies. At the same time, his groundbreaking book challenges much current thinking on the subject, critically evaluating the hypothesis that perennial bunchgrasses were once a dominant feature of California's landscape and instead arguing that wildflowers filled this role. As he examines the changes in the state's landscape over the past three centuries, Minnich brings new perspectives to topics including restoration ecology, conservation, and fire management in a book that will change our of view of native California.

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California's Frontier Naturalists

Richard G Beidleman

This book chronicles the fascinating story of the enthusiastic, stalwart, and talented naturalists who were drawn to California’s spectacular natural bounty over the decades from 1786, when the La Pérouse Expedition arrived at Monterey, to the Death Valley expedition in 1890–91, the proclaimed "end" of the American frontier. Richard G. Beidleman’s engaging and marvelously detailed narrative describes these botanists, zoologists, geologists, paleontologists, astronomers, and ethnologists as they camped under stars and faced blizzards, made discoveries and amassed collections, kept journals and lost valuables, sketched flowers and landscapes, recorded comets and native languages. He weaves together the stories of their lives, their demanding fieldwork, their contributions to science, and their exciting adventures against the backdrop of California and world history.

California's Frontier Naturalists covers all the major expeditions to California as well as individual and institutional explorations, introducing naturalists who accompanied boundary surveys, joined federal railroad parties, traveled with river topographical expeditions, accompanied troops involved with the Mexican War, and made up California’s own geological survey. Among these early naturalists are famous names—David Douglas, Thomas Nuttall, John Charles Fremont, William Brewer—as well as those who are less well-known, including Paolo Botta, Richard Hinds, and Sara Lemmon.

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Californio Voices

The Oral Memoirs of Jose Maria Amador and Lorenzo Asisara

Translated and edited by Gregorio Mora-Torres

In the early 1870s, Hubert H. Bancroft and his assistants set out to record the memoirs of early Californios, one of them being eighty-three-year-old Don José María Amador, a former “Forty-Niner” during the California Gold Rush and soldado de cuera at the Presidio of San Francisco. Amador tells of reconnoitering expeditions into the interior of California, where he encountered local indigenous populations. He speaks of political events of Mexican California and the widespread confiscation of the Californios’ goods, livestock, and properties when the United States took control. A friend from Mission Santa Cruz, Lorenzo Asisara, also describes the harsh life and mistreatment the Indians faced from the priests. Both the Amador and Asisara narratives were used as sources in Bancroft’s writing but never published themselves. Gregorio Mora-Torres has now rescued them from obscurity and presents their voices in English translation (with annotations) and in the original Spanish on facing pages. This bilingual edition will be of great interest to historians of the West, California, and Mexican American studies. “This book presents a very convincing and interesting narrative about Mexican California. Its frankness and honesty are refreshing.”–Richard Griswold del Castillo, San Diego State University

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Call for Change

The Medicine Way of American Indian History, Ethos, and Reality

Donald L. Fixico

For too many years, the academic discipline of history has ignored American Indians or lacked the kind of open-minded thinking necessary to truly understand them. Most historians remain oriented toward the American experience at the expense of the Native experience. As a result, both the status and the quality of Native American history have suffered and remain marginalized within the discipline. In this impassioned work, noted historian Donald L. Fixico challenges academic historians—and everyone else—to change this way of thinking. Fixico argues that the current discipline and practice of American Indian history are insensitive to and inconsistent with Native people’s traditions, understandings, and ways of thinking about their own history. In Call for Change, Fixico suggests how the discipline of history can improve by reconsidering its approach to Native peoples.

He offers the “Medicine Way” as a paradigm to see both history and the current world through a Native lens. This new approach paves the way for historians to better understand Native peoples and their communities through the eyes and experiences of Indians, thus reflecting an insightful indigenous historical ethos and reality.

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A Call for Heresy

Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America

Anouar Majid

A Call for Heresy discovers unexpected common ground in one of the most inflammatory issues of the twenty-first century: the deepening conflict between the Islamic world and the United States. Moving beyond simplistic answers, Anouar Majid argues that the Islamic world and the United States are both in precipitous states of decline because, in each, religious, political, and economic orthodoxies have silenced the voices of their most creative thinkers—the visionary nonconformists, radicals, and revolutionaries who are often dismissed, or even punished, as heretics.

The United States and contemporary Islam share far more than partisans on either side admit, Majid provocatively argues, and this “clash of civilizations” is in reality a clash of competing fundamentalisms. Illustrating this point, he draws surprising parallels between the histories and cultures of Islam and the United States and their shortsighted suppression of heresy (zandaqa in Arabic), from Muslim poets and philosophers like Ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroës) to the freethinker Thomas Paine, and from Abu Bakr Razi and Al-Farabi to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He finds bitter irony in the fact that Islamic culture is now at war with a nation whose ideals are losing ground to the reactionary forces that have long condemned Islam to stagnation.

The solution, Majid concludes, is a long-overdue revival of dissent. Heresy is no longer a contrarian’s luxury, for only through encouraging an engaged and progressive intellectual tradition can the nations reverse their decline and finally work together for global justice and the common good of humanity.


Anouar Majid is founding chair and professor of English at the University of New England and the author of Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post-Andalusian Age; Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World; and Si Yussef, a novel. He is also cofounder and editor of Tingis, a Moroccan-American magazine of ideas and culture.

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