Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California

Paperback | October 1, 1997

byKevin Starr

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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 epicstory 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 overCalifornia 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 disbandedtheir 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, whereworkers 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, thesechallenges 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 millionimpoverished 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 anda mirror for understanding our own time.

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From Our Editors

In capturing the the powerful forces that swept the state of California in the 1930s, Kevin 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. 50 photos

From the Publisher

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 epicstory than Kevin Starr, in his acclaimed series...

Kevin Starr is State Librarian of California, contributing editor of the Los Angeles Times, and a member of the faculty at the University of Southern California. He is the author of a number of books, including Americans and the California Dream, Inventing the Dream, and Material Dreams. He lives in San Francisco.

other books by Kevin Starr

Los Angeles, Portrait of a City
Los Angeles, Portrait of a City

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California: A History
California: A History

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 6.1 × 9.02 × 0.91 inPublished:October 1, 1997Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195118022

ISBN - 13:9780195118025

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From Our Editors

In capturing the the powerful forces that swept the state of California in the 1930s, Kevin 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. 50 photos

Editorial Reviews

"As I read the first three volumes of his California history I wondered how Kevin Starr would handle the bitter, hilarious, monumental social tides of the Depression years that did so much to shape America's most populous state. He hasn't let us down."--Neil Morgan, Associate Editor, San DiegoUnion-Tribune, author of Westward Tilt, and co-author of Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel