Sarah Wald

The Nature of California

Race, Citizenship, and Farming since the Dust Bowl

University of Washington Press 2016

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in FoodNew Books in Latino StudiesNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & Places June 28, 2016 Lori A. Flores

The California farmlands have long served as a popular symbol of America’s natural abundance and endless opportunity. Yet, from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of...

The California farmlands have long served as a popular symbol of America’s natural abundance and endless opportunity. Yet, from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart to Helena Maria Viramontes’s Under the Feet of Jesus, many novels, plays, movies, and songs have dramatized the brutality and hardships of working in the California fields. Little scholarship has focused on what these cultural productions tell us about who belongs in America, and in what ways they are allowed to belong. In The Nature of California: Race, Citizenship, and Farming since the Dust Bowl (University of Washington Press, 2016), Sarah Wald analyzes this legacy and its consequences by examining the paradoxical representations of California farmers and farmworkers from the Dust Bowl migration to present-day movements for food justice and immigrant rights. Analyzing fiction, nonfiction, news coverage, activist literature, memoirs, and more, Wald gives us a new way of thinking through questions of national belonging by probing the relationships among race, labor, and landownership. Bringing together eco-criticism and critical race theory, she pays special attention to marginalized groups, examining how Japanese American journalists, Filipino workers, United Farm Workers members, and contemporary immigrants-rights activists, among others, pushed back against the standard narratives of landownership and citizenship.

SARAH D. WALD is assistant professor of English and environmental studies at the University of Oregon.


Lori A. Flores is an Assistant Professor of History at Stony Brook University (SUNY) and the author of Grounds for Dreaming: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the California Farmworker Movement (Yale, 2016). You can find her at http://www.loriaflores.com, lori.flores@stonybrook.edu, or hanging around Brooklyn.

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