From the High Sierra to Inlandia

The latest from the California Legacy Series.

Seven years ago, Santa Clara University teamed up with Heyday Books to change the landscape in California publishing by recovering the past and remapping the present. With more than 20 books behind it and an equal number on the horizon, under the directorship of SCU Professor of English Terry Beers, the California Legacy series has built up quite a head of steam. Here are a few offerings from 2006.

Nature scribe and planet steward
Essential Muir
Essential Muir

John Muir’s love for nature compelled him to found the Sierra Club and help create Yosemite National Park. A century after his death, he still exerts a profound influence on how we think about California’s natural legacy. And the recent anthology edited by SCU Associate Professor of English Fred White, Essential Muir (paperback, $11.95), gives a wonderful and unusual introduction to Muir the preservationist, inventor, lobbyist, and writer.

Here Muir takes a group of travelers into the High Sierra for the first time. It’s the colors that dazzle the newcomers most, he says: “The intense azure of the sky, the purplish grays of the granite, the red and browns of dry meadows, and the translucent purple and crimson of huckleberry bogs; the flaming yellow of aspen groves, the silvery flashing of streams, and the bright green and blue of the glacier lakes.”

The future of California
Inlandia: A Literary Journal through California’s Inland Empire
Inlandia: A Literary Journal through California’s Inland Empire

East of Los Angeles lies one of the fastest-growing regions in America—California’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the so-called Inland Empire. It’s a place where the denizens of tract home bedroom communities are serenaded by coyotes, where gangs do battle and soldiers train with guns in the desert. The history and present tense of this place in the process of defining itself comes into relief as never before in Inlandia: A Literary Journal through California’s Inland Empire (paperback, $18.95).

What is this landscape, really? To answer that question, editor Gayle Wattawa has assembled pieces of Juan Buatista de Anza’s chronicle of his journey through the lands in the 18th century and an excerpt from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, along with writings by one-time editor of The Nation Carey McWilliams, Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion, Mike Davis, and dozens more. Novelist Susan Straight serves up the introduction, along with the observation that the new voices in the anthology offer “eloquent renderings of how the old worlds and new have collided and melded in this place like no other.”

Country of lost borders
Essential Mary Austin
Essential Mary Austin

“East away from the Sierras, south from Panamint and Amargosa, east and south many an uncounted mile, is the Country of Lost Borders.” So begins Mary Austin’s The Land of Little Rain, first published in 1903. Austin summoned on the page a part of California that she described as “the loneliest land that ever came out of God’s hands”—but a land in which she found profound beauty.

The book made Austin an overnight sensation, and in addition to writing more than 30 books, she would go on to help found the literary and artistic community in Carmel. Excerpts from her books and articles have been drawn together in Essential Mary Austin (paperpack, $11.95), edited by Kevin Hearle.

A fifth-generation Californian, Hearle has taught at SCU, UC Santa Cruz, San Jose State, and elsewhere.

Podcasting the legacy

With a quick visit to, you can use iTunes to subscribe to podcasts of “Your California Legacy,” a radio series made possible through a collaboration with KAZU-FM in Pacific Grove. SCU students provide the scripts for the 90-second segments, with professional actors providing the voice talent.

The series was launched in 2003, and podcasts came online in October 2006. With just a few clicks, hear Jack Kerouac, M.F.K. Fisher, and Mark Twain come to life.

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