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J.G. Boswell was the biggest farmer in America. He built a secret empire while thumbing his nose at nature, politicians, labor unions and every journalist who ever tried to lift the veil on the ultimate "factory in the fields." The King of California is the previously untold account of how a Georgia slave-owning family migrated to California in the early 1920s,drained one of America 's biggest lakes in an act of incredible hubris and carved out the richest cotton empire in the world. Indeed, the sophistication of Boswell 's agricultural operation -from lab to field to gin - is unrivaled anywhere. Much more than a business story, this is a sweeping social history that details the saga of cotton growers who were chased from the South by the boll weevil and brought their black farmhands to California. It is a gripping read with cameos by a cast of famous characters, from Cecil B. DeMille to Cesar Chavez.
"The definitive work on the West's water crisis." --Newsweek The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster. In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West. Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden--an Eden that may only be a mirage. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Teddy Roosevelt once exclaimed, ''When I am in California, I am not in the West, I am west of the West,'' and in this book, Mark Arax sets out to explain just what TR meant. His is a compelling, sometimes ominous portrait of a place and its people who are often surviving on the edge, reliving history, and losing their way in the promised land: ''The Summer of the Death of Hilario Guzman'' is a deeply-felt portrait of an immigrant family from Oaxaca, followed through harrowing border crossings and raisin harvests; ''the Last Okie of Lamont,'' (the inspiration for the town featured in The Grapes of Wrath) has only one Okie left, who tells Arax his life story as he drives to a funeral to bury one more Dust Bowl migrant; and ''Highlands of Humboldt'' is a visit to the marijuana growing capital of the U.S., where the local bank collects a sizeable daily deposit of cash, most of which reeks of marijuana.Combining hard-hitting reporting and stellar writing, Arax captures both the atmosphere of social upheaval and the sense of being rooted in a community. Once you meet the people portrayed in this book, you won't forget them.
Few books have caused as big a stir as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, when it was published in April 1939. By May, it was the nation's No. 1 bestseller, flying off store shelves at a rate of 10,000 copies a week. But in Kern County, California—the Joads' newfound home—the book was burned publicly and banned from library shelves. Obscene in the Extreme tells the remarkable story behind that fit of censorship, a moment when several lives collided as part of a larger class struggle roiling the nation. It is a superb historical narrative that serves as an engaging window into an extraordinary time of upheaval in America, when as Steinbeck put it, “A revolution is going on.”
In Transforming California, Stephanie Pincetl argues that the transformation of nature in order to enhance economic development lies at the heart of much of the state's recent history. She sees late-twentieth-century California on a path of continued environmental degradation, gripped by cynicism about government. Transforming California describes the evolution of the state's institutions of government as they apply to land use and development, and it shows how land-use decisions affect people's quality of life and their daily interactions with each other and with their environment. Pincetl offers an alternative vision for the renewal of the democratic spirit and process in California and for a reconciliation with nature.
"Ambitiously conceived, abundantly researched, effectively plotted, elegantly composed, and concisely argued, Igler's study of the rise and fall of Miller & Lux will be hailed as a landmark contribution. No other work on late nineteenth-century California so stylishly and convincingly brings together the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of the state's post-Gold Rush development."—Stephen Aron, author of How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay "David Igler writes this intriguing history at the intersection of landscape, work and industry. He places the emergence of Western resource based corporations at the center of a set of cultural, economic, and natural changes that intersect and ramify in unforeseen directions."—Richard White, author of "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West
This comprehensive history of the San Joaquin Valley begins with a study of the indigenous Native American tribes of the area and their interactions with one another. It then explores the occupation by the Spanish, the trapping industry, the arrival of settlers from the eastern United States, and the formation of expansive cattle ranches. The development of agriculture and irrigation and the subsequent battles over land and water rights are addressed. Also discussed is the grand era of the railroad, which would forever change the valley, bringing light industry and modern agricultural practices.

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