California Drought: The Grapes of Wrath Today (9-12)

The Grapes of Wrath, the classic novel of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, is disturbingly contemporary. It recounts natural disasters, economic collapse, corporate greed, homeless migrants, ecological crisis and vigilante justice—many of the issues that confront us today, almost 70 years after the novel was written. In this class, as we read John Steinbeck’s novel, we’ll get out into the world that this story represents. We’ll meet with agricultural workers in California’s Central Valley, Dust Bowl migrants who still recall the Great Depression and coming to California in the 1930s, and documentary photographers and filmmakers who think about Steinbeck’s novel, and how he would have represented the world they see today. We’ll also listen to folk and country music, watch the films that relate to this novel, and catch a country music show and do line dancing at the the Crystal Palace to round out our study of this novel.

Co-teacher Rick Wartzman, Oakwood parent, reporter, and executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, is the author of King of California, a book about cotton farming in our state, and Obscene in the Extreme, a history of the banning of Grapes of Wrath. His sources and contacts will be both our guests and hosts.

Victor Cohen