Top Literary Coverage from Alta Journal’s California Book Club

Marquee writers, including Paul Beatty, May-lee Chai, John Freeman, and Paul Yamazaki, contributed to an expansive collection of pieces about our 2021 California Book Club selections.

year in review, cbc
Alta

Alta Journal’s California Book Club, launched in October 2020, took off this year. Our membership exploded into the thousands, and we invited 12 incredible writers to share their wisdom and talents. In addition to our monthly Zoom gatherings with the authors of our book picks, we delivered a weekly newsletter and presented critical essays about our selected titles to members. Early in 2021, we welcomed CBC assistant editor, Rasheeda Saka, who wrote award-winning critical pieces on our selections, followed by author Anita Felicelli, who as CBC editor has gathered countless new voices to contribute to the CBC’s literary community. Check out our editors’ picks of the best pieces related to a groundbreaking past year for the CBC.

JANUARY: “ASK A BOOKSELLER: AMERICA IS NOT THE HEART
elaine castillo, america is not the heart
GETTY IMAGES

City Lights’ Paul Yamazaki explains why readers love Elaine Castillo’s writing.

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FEBRUARY: “POST-RACIALISM AND THE FACADE OF EQUALITY”
paul beatty, the sellout
Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

Paul Beatty wrote and published The Sellout during the Obama administration. Rasheeda Saka discusses what this means.

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MARCH: “HOW HISTORY ANIMATES SOUTHLAND
nina revoyr, southland
Monica Almeida

Rasheeda Saka writes about how Nina Revoyr’s eye for historical detail elevates the murder mystery at the heart of Southland.

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APRIL: “THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MEAN AND THE #METOO MOVEMENT”
mean, myriam gurba
Coffee House Press

Rasheeda Saka considers the historical context of Myriam Gurba’s 2017 memoir.

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MAY: “THE THREAT OF SILENCE IN RACHEL KUSHNER’S THE MARS ROOM
the mars room, rachel kushner
Scribner Book Company

Rasheeda Saka discusses silence as it affects characters in The Mars Room and different groups in society.

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JUNE: “WHY I WRITE: ROBIN COSTE LEWIS”
voyage of the sable venus, robin coste lewis
Robin Coste Lewis

For Robin Coste Lewis, our June author, poetry is like sitting on the rim of a mirror.

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JULY: “BARBARIAN DAYS WITHOUT END”
william finnegan, barbarian days
GETTY IMAGES

CBC host John Freeman writes about how the enduring power of William Finnegan’s memoir depends on far more than a passion for surfing.

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AUGUST: “THE CALIFORNIA I KNOW”
dana johnson, elsewhere california
Ellie Partovi

CBC selection panelist Danzy Senna interviews Dana Johnson about her novel, Elsewhere, California, and its relationship to place.

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SEPTEMBER: “LOST IN PARADISE”
rebecca solnit, a paradise built in hell
John Lee

Writer Katharine Coldiron demonstrates how a Hollywood account of a disaster utopia gets it right according to Rebecca Solnit’s thesis.

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OCTOBER: “FINDING THE WOMAN WARRIOR AMONG THE PAPERBACKS”
maxine hong kingston, woman warrior
Jennifer S. Altman

Author May-lee Chai recognizes herself in books for the first time in Maxine Hong Kingston’s groundbreaking memoir of Asian American girlhood.

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NOVEMBER: “RESILIENCE THROUGH STORYTELLING IN THERE THERE
tommy orange
GETTY IMAGES

Ajay Orona discusses how certain insights from Tommy Orange’s debut novel about Urban Indians in Oakland resound across stories of the Armenian genocide as well.

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DECEMBER: “WAITING FOR THE AXE TO FALL IN THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES
barbarian nurseries, héctor tobar
Dustin Snipes

Author Elizabeth Gonzalez James analyzes the impending financial doom that gives Héctor Tobar’s novel its tension.

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