California historian Kevin Starr shared his intellectual curiosity about the Golden State with fans, colleagues and friends at the inaugural event of the Great Faculty-New Books series at Town & Gown.
The event, which showcases the work of outstanding faculty, was part of USC’s 125th anniversary celebration.
The lecture and book signing featured “Coast of Dreams: California on the Edge, 1990-2003,” Starr’s seventh volume in his “Americans and the California Dream” series.
“Capitalizing on USC’s impressive strengths in the creative arts, the Great Faculty-New Books series showcases the work of our faculty’s outstanding authors, providing the university community and Southern California with the opportunity to experience the personalities and perspectives of talented writers who are actively contributing to what is taught, thought and practiced throughout the world,” said USC President Steven B. Sample in opening the series.
Sample called Starr “a multifaceted scholar, a prolific author, an inspiring teacher and California’s most distinguished historian,” lauding the author’s “lyrical and compelling storytelling.”
Starr, University Professor and professor of history in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, as well as California’s librarian emeritus, said that he locked onto his topic 40 years ago as a graduate student at Harvard.
He’s been at it ever since, introducing readers to the cast of California characters who’ve made a difference, for better or worse.
In his new volume � “ a collection of snapshots and sketches” � Starr tells the story of a contemporary California facing great challenges. This is not a history book, Starr said � the events are still too raw and recent.
By digging into the history, nuances and the heart of the state, Starr also has sought his own identity, he said.
Raised in a Catholic orphanage, the fourth-generation Californian said he hoped he could make something out of his “neglected and incoherent youth.” Like many of the California figures he writes about, he rose above the negative effects of his early struggles.
In “Coast of Dreams,” Starr covers surfers and sand, the recession, earthquakes, catastrophic firestorms and floods. Also included are diversity issues, growth or no-growth policies, the dot-com debacle, that other Starr � Kenneth � 9/11 and, of course, the once unimagined recall of a sitting governor who would be replaced by an Austrian-born Hollywood actor.
In the book’s preface he writes, “… there was still something compelling about the California experiment: its ecumenism, for one thing; its embrace of the planet’s peoples and traditions; its incomparable beauty, environmentally challenged yet persistent; the rich m�lange of its syncretic culture, so full of hope for a diverse and renewed America.”
“Professor Starr’s latest installment in this series provides illuminating insights into the sweeping events and social forces that shaped California as it moved from the 20th to the 21st century,” Sample said. “Once again his eloquent and enlightening illustrations will make this book an enduring resource for students and scholars alike.”
This Great Faculty-New Books series builds on USC’s strengths in the creative arts.
University Relations spearheaded the project, bringing together the USC Alumni Association, Friends of the USC Libraries, USC Associates, and the USC Bookstore as sponsors.
The series is slated to continue throughout 2005.