Author: Kathleen

Why I’m Writing a Book About California’s History

Why I’m Writing a Book About California’s History

California spends billions rebuilding burned towns. The case for calling it quits?

Photo: Alamy

I’m a historian-in-waiting who has long written about the social benefits of historical research. I would like to be able to go back to my bookshelf and choose my next subject without having to answer the usual question: What was your subject? (I’ve never seen a question like this in any class I’ve taught.) And yet I couldn’t get out of it for all the books I read on the subject of California’s history. “It’s a great state,” I would say, hoping that this time the students would understand. My wish would be fulfilled! I’d say, “So you’re telling me the state is the best thing to happen to my life?” But then I’d realize this was a trick question, and I’d have to wonder if they were aware of the fact that this state, too, was better off than the rest of the country.

I’ve always wanted to write a book, and I’m currently writing one that will focus on California’s history. Part of my goal was to understand what, if anything, I should do in the state. Was it worth saving? I am, after all, a writer, and it would be silly to write a book without any effort. (For example, I didn’t use CalFire’s website to learn about the fires because that’s the extent of my library search; I know how to do research from looking at information online. Also, I didn’t use Google to look into the history of the state’s population; I could Google the population figures for every state in the union, and I’ve been doing that all my life.) I have a general idea of what I want to write about—the question of whether California deserves to be called one of America’s great states—but I’m still working through the finer details.

Part of my thinking about how to tackle the state’s history

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