Past Events

The White Devil’s Daughters: Fighting Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown
Monday, June 17, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Beginning in 1874, the Occidental Mission Home on the edge of San Francisco’s Chinatown served as a gateway to freedom for thousands of enslaved and vulnerable young Chinese women and girls. Run by a courageous group of female abolitionists who fought the slave trade in Chinese women, it survived earthquakes, fire, bubonic plague, and violence directed against its occupants and supporters. With compassion and an investigative historian’s sharp eye, Siler tells the story of both the abolitionists who challenged the corrosive anti-Chinese prejudices of the time and the young women who dared to flee their fate. She relates how the women who ran the home defied contemporary convention–even occasionally breaking the law–by physically rescuing children from the brothels where they worked or by snatching them off ships as they were being smuggled in–and how they helped bring the exploiters to justice. She also shares the moving stories of many of the girls and young women who sought refuge at the mission, and she writes about the lives they went on to lead. This is a remarkable chapter in an overlooked part of our history, told with sympathy and vigor.

A revelatory history of the trafficking of young Asian girls that flourished in San Francisco during the first hundred years of Chinese immigration (1848-1943) and an in-depth look at the “safe house” that became a refuge for those seeking their freedom.

A talk by Julia Flynn Siler, journalist and author.

Remembering the California Missions
Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 5:30–7 PM
*A Southern California Program

Hospitality at 5:30 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Travel back 200 years with artist Pat Hunter and author Janice Stevens in this visual presentation of the California Missions. From the first mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in San Diego to the last mission founded in Sonoma, California, view full watercolor paintings of the missions on Power Point and discover the remaining asistencias (submissions) associated with the missions. Then take a road trip and discover these historical gems. Perhaps arrange a sleep over in a small mission room, and eat at the communal dining room with other travelers from anywhere in the world who travel great distances to see these 200 year old treasures.

An illustrated talk by Pat Hunter, artist, and Janice Stevens, author.

At the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

Historic Tassajara: From Esselen Tribal Legend to Pioneering Zen Monastery
Monday, June 10, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Discover a short history of Tassajara, from Native American Sweat Lodges to Pioneering Zen Monastery. In Marilyn McDonald’s book (foreword by David Chadwick), you’ll meet the people who have loved Tassajara. Its healing waters, rugged remoteness, memorable characters, perilous road, fires, restorations, conversations under the Gossip Oak, peace and quiet are beautifully documented in this book by the late author Marilyn McDonald. Join her daughter, Lee Doyle, for a talk about Tassajara and the book.

“Everywhere I looked were wonderful old stone buildings. Being inquisitive, I wanted to know who had built them and why. None of the Zen students I asked had answers that were complete enough for me.” — Marilyn McDonald, author of A Brief History of Tassajara.

A talk by Lee Doyle, daughter of author Marilyn McDonald, and David Rogers, Tassajara historian.

Running North and Underground: Salinas Valley
Monday, June 3, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

The Salinas River and Valley has played a large part in the history of the Central Coast of California; but visually it seems to come in as a distant second to the charms of the Carmel and Monterey Peninsula coastlines. This book embodies the idea that this area needs to be appreciated and re-discovered, if not discovered. Based on a model provided by Karl Bodmer’s documentation of his travels on the Missouri River in the mid-nineteenth century, Running North and Underground is a subjective visual exploration of the river and valley, and not an historical or scientific record. Its purpose is to invite the reader to open up to a new appraisal of the area and perhaps to the spirit of discovery. After eight years off research and gathering photos, drawings, paintings and journal notes, the book was published in 2018.

Janet Whitchurch grew up as a third generation Californian in the San Francisco Bay Area and presently works as an artist in Monterey.

An illustrated talk by Janet Whitchurch, author and illustrator.

The Browns of California
Monday, May 20, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Even in the land of reinvention, the story is exceptional: Pat Brown, the beloved father who presided over California during an era of unmatched expansion, Jerry brown, the cerebral and iconoclastic son who became the youngest governor in modern times- and then returned three decades later as the oldest.

In The Browns of California, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and scholar Miriam Pawel weaves a narrative history that spans four generations, from August Schuckman, the Prussian immigrant who crossed the Plains in 1852 and settled on a northern California ranch, to his great-grandson Jerry Brown, who reclaimed the family homestead one hundred forty years later. Through the prisim of their lives, we gain an essential understanding of California- an appreciation of the history and importance of the fifth largest economy in the world.

A talk by Miriam Pawel, journalist and author.

The 2019 Next Generation Printers Showcase
Monday, May 13, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 5:30 PM

A presentation and pop-up exhibition of work by emerging Bay Area fine printers.

Participating printers:

Max Stadnick – Co-founder and co-owner of Max’s Garage Press |
Veronica Graham – Co-founder and owner of Most Ancient |
Clare Szydlowski –
Geneviève L’Heureux –

Los Angeles Union Station: Tracks to the Future
Wednesday, May 8, 2019, 5:30-7:00 PM
*A Southern California Program

Hospitality at 5:30 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Los Angeles Union Station—opened on May 7, 1939, after days of celebration—was the last great train station built in the United States. Intended as a grand portal to a grand Los Angeles, it was an anomaly, built at a time when America was eager to drive or fly to its chosen destinations. Protected by early inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places for its iconic architecture, Los Angeles Union Station has had an astonishing and unpredictable rebirth. As the city modernizes its public transportation system linking the culturally and geographically diverse communities of Southern California, Union Station—in all its Mission Revival glory—is suddenly the hub of the country’s newest light rail and subway system, serving hundreds of thousands of people each week. Where Pullman cars and Harvey Girls once served commuters, where the Super Chief and the Coast Starlight, Streamliners and Domeliners converged, Los Angeles Union Station is now a living-breathing center of transportation modernity.

Author William Bradley relates a rich history of fierce battles, cultural relocation, and astounding financial risks culminating in one of California’s most important stories. Augmenting his words with vintage images, Bradley not only shares the tale of the terminal, but of the trains that rode its tracks—those 1939 tracks to the future.

An illustrated talk by William Bradley, historian and writer.

At the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

Exhibition Opening: The Artistry of Mallette Dean: A Selection from the Sperisen Library
Monday, May 6, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality and viewing at 5 PM | Remarks at 6 PM

The Book Club of California presents a variety of illustrated books featuring the artistry of Mallette Dean (1907-1975). The exhibition, drawn entirely from the Club’s Sperisen Library, features works printed by the Grabhorn Press, the Colt Press, the Allen Press, as well as several books designed and printed by Mallette Dean. The exhibition includes scarce ephemera, woodcut blocks, and several distinguished titles published by the Book Club of California.

With remarks by exhibition curator and author John Hawk.

Life and Crimes of Robert Dighton (1751-1814): Painter, Printer, Caricaturist, Thief
Monday, April 29, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

English artist R. Dighton, a contemporary of James Gilray and George Cruikshank, was well known for his satirical caricatures of lawyers, noblemen, actors and military officers. His talent made him successful; his cunning kept him consistently employed. How he kept out of prison despite a second career stealing prints is a tale worth telling.

An illustrated talk by Karen Zukor, art conservationist.

An Evening in the Library: a Page Of prancing Poetry
Monday, April 22, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 5:30 PM

Since the ancient world, poets and scribes, and later, printers, have taken advantage of the fact that poetry is both a visual and a verbal art. The layout on the page reflects not only how a poem should sound, but also how it should feel to the reader. This presentation will look at how these creators collaborate in producing multi-sensory works from Ancient Roman ‘versus intexti’ (interwoven verses) and ‘Carmina figurata’ (figure songs) to modern poems that defy a single reading.

A members-only talk by Elizabeth Newsom, librarian, Book Club of California.

The 2019 Book Arts Student Showcase
Monday, April 15, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

A pop-up exhibition of work and presentations by select students enrolled in Bay Area book arts programs.

Participating students:

Sasha (Seonho) Kim – Mills College
Julianne Villegas – California College of the Arts
Samantha Caruthers-Knight – City College of San Francisco
Haley Toyama – San Francisco Art Institute

Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles, 1925-1965
Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 5:30–7 PM
*A Southern California Program

Hospitality at 5:30 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles, 1925-1965 is a spectacular collection of vintage photography that showcases the glowing neon heritage of the City of Angels. More than 200 images fill its pages. L.A. has long been recognized as the most vibrant city in America, and part of its radiance comes from streets lined with neon signs during the Golden Age of neon from 1925 to 1965. Photographer and historian Tom Zimmerman shows images that depict, in both color and in black-and-white, what Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and countless other writers have tried to put into words.

Spectacular Illumination tells a story of a city that has glowed, now glows, and, thanks to institutions such as the Museum of Neon Art, will glow forever.

An illustrated talk by Tom Zimmerman, author and photographer.

At the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

The 2019 Oscar Lewis Awards
Monday, April 8, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Join us for a ceremony celebrating the recipients of the 2019 Oscar Lewis Awards in Western History and the Book Arts. The Oscar Lewis Awards were established by the Book Club of California in 1994 in honor of Oscar Lewis (1893-1992), San Francisco author, historian, and Book Club secretary from 1921-1946.

Please click here for more information about the awards and a list of past recipients.

Reservations required. Limited seating is available.

Palimpsest: The Layering of a Man’s Life in San Francisco
Monday, April 1, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

After writing 16 books of nonfiction, including 5 on San Francisco history, Charles Fracchia has written a novel: Palimpsest: A Man’s Life in San Francisco.

The novel is a “going to age” (as opposed to a “coming of age”) work of fiction. It deals with the life of a man in late middle age who seeks to re-establish the vibrancy of his youthful years, dealing with issues of sexual potency, work, relationships, and other concerns that mark advancing age.

Fracchia spent the first 25 years of his career in investment banking (he was one of the founders of Rolling Stone Magazine) and then more than 30 years as an academic, teaching at San Francisco State, USF, and City College of San Francisco.

A talk by Charles Fracchia, historian and professor.

The Monumental Challenge of Preservation: The Past in a Volatile World
Monday, March 25, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Monuments—movable, immovable, tangible, and intangible—of the world’s shared heritage are at risk. War, terrorism, natural disaster, vandalism, technological obsolescence, and neglect make the work of preservation a greater challenge than ever before. In her most recent book, The Monumental Challenge of Preservation, Michèle V. Cloonan makes the case that, at this critical juncture, we must consider preservation in the broadest possible contexts.

Preservation requires the efforts of an increasing number of stakeholders. Michèle will give many examples of dilemmas presented by monuments large and small, from the built environment to individual objects. Examples include the Book of Kells, the buildings of Louis Sullivan, the AIDs Memorial Quilt, the Vietnam Memorial, and digital heritage. She will also discuss the role of collectors in cultural heritage preservation. Every day we make preservation decisions, individually and collectively, that have longer term ramifications than we might expect.

A talk by Michele Cloonan, dean emerita and professor.

The Chinese American Democratic Youth League’s Local Theatrical Productions and their Ephemera
Monday, March 18, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

The Chinese American Democratic Youth League was active in the 1940s and 1950s in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The group, known by its Cantonese abbreviation Mun Ching, had a large library, a theatrical troupe, a choral group, a science club, a dance team, and other social clubs. It served as a community center for Chinese-speaking leftists who were isolated both culturally and politically from broader American society. It also became the focus of attention from the FBI after the Korean War broke out, when its members were suspected of working on behalf of Communist China.

In this presentation, illustrated with slides of original ephemera, Alexander Akin, an historian of China and co-owner of Bolerium Books, will discuss the role of theater in Mun Ching’s community work, and examine the programs, scripts, and other surviving materials that document its activities.

An illustrated talk by Alexander Akin, co-owner, Bolerium Books.

*Left photo: Cover of the Mun Ching newsletter for June 21, 1958, a special issue promoting an Arts Night they held every year featuring theater, song, and poetic recitations.

LACMA So Far: Portrait of a Museum in the Making
Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 5:30–7 PM
*A Southern California Program

Hospitality at 5:30 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Suzanne Muchnic draws on decades of experience as a Los Angeles Times arts writer to relate the complicated story of how the Los Angeles County Museum of Art emerged as the largest art museum in the western United States. Her in-depth reporting, fleshed out with private interviews and archival research, offers a lively tale about the convergence of art, money, people, and buildings that has produced a museum perpetually in the making.

An illustrated talk by Suzanne Muchnic, journalist and author.

At the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

Bright, Bitter, and Boozy
Monday, March 4, 2019, 5-7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Duggan McDonnell, author of Drinking the Devil’s Acre, shares San Francisco’s vibrant cocktail history and its’ drinking preferences from the Barbary Coast to the Farmers Market.

A talk by Duggan McDonnell, writer, cocktail educator, and historian.

Introducing Dooby Lane
Tuesday, February 19, 2019, 6-8 PM
*At the Commonwealth Club of California

The program featuring the lively art and wit of the ever popular activist Gary Snyder and Goins, is a conversation, reading and slide show with book signing of Dooby Lane Also Known as Guru Road, A Testament inscribed in Stone Tablets by DeWayne Williams. This is their latest collaboration.

A conversation, reading, and illustrated talk by Gary Snyder, poet/activist, and Peter Goin, Photographer. Moderated by Jack Shoemaker of Counterpoint Press.

*At the Commonwealth Club of California
110 Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

Cost/Tickets: 415-597-6705 or order online here
BCC Promo Code: BookClub

Yosemite People
Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 5:30–7 PM
*A Southern California Program

Hospitality at 5:30 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Described as street photography in the wilderness, Yosemite People is a photography project and book by Jonas Kulikauskas. Carol McCusker, curator of photography at the Harn Museum of Art, describes the project best: “For the first time, a photographer is entering Yosemite as the WPA documentary photographers of the 1930s might, with a shifted priority on people rather than on nature.” The evening will also feature a small pop-up exhibition of photographs.

An illustrated talk and pop-up exhibition by Jonas Kulikauskas, artist and photographer.

At the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

The American Menu: A History of the Menu as a Literary Document
Monday, February 11, 2019, 5–7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

A menu is many things: a list, a brochure, an art-form, and even a manifesto. But menus tells us more than what people ate—but who they aspired to be. This presentation will take us through a cultural history of American menu writing from its 19th-century origins to its current artistic aspirations. By comparing two menus from the early 20th century and two menus from the early 21st, the talk will trace the evolution of American culinary language—and explore how that evolution tells a larger story of class and culture in America. The presentation will be illustrated with notable examples of historical menus from gastronomic collections.

A talk by Theodore Gioia, food writer and critic

Printing Abolition: How the Fight to Abolish the Slave Trade in Britain Was Won
Thursday, February 7, 2019, 6–8 PM
*At the Commonwealth Club of California

Michael Suarez, S.J,. is Director of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. A renowned historian, author, and worldwide leader of rare book scholarship interests, he co-edited the The Oxford Companion to the Book. Suarez will provide us with a compelling, richly illustrated description about how a group of printers were instrumental in making the anti-slavery movement happen in England. Their broadside engraving with an image diagramming the human cargo on slave-ship Brookes became a force for political change in the worldwide abolitionist movement.

A talk with Michael F. Suarez, S.J., director of Rare Book School, professor of English, University Professor, and honorary curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia.

*At the Commonwealth Club of California
110 Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94105

Cost/Tickets: 415-597-6705 or order online here
BCC Promo Code: BookClub

Codex Polaris: Book Arts from Northern Europe
Monday, February 4, 2019, 5–7 PM

*A co-presentation with Codex Foundation

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Codex Polaris, established in 2013 – is an book artist group based in Bergen, Norway that creates opportunities and builds exhibiting platforms for artists who work with books in the Nordic region. Alongside the exhibition program, Codex Polaris invites guest co-organisers to work on various networking projects, and writers to contribute with textworks to raise the profile book arts spanning local and international perspectives. Founded by Sarah Jost, Rita Marhaug, Imi Maufe and Randi Annie Strand. We will be discussing past and current projects at the BCC. –

A talk by Imi Maufe, founding member of Codex Polaris.

Print-your-own-broadside Party
Monday, January 14, 2019, 5–7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Printing at 6 PM

Letterpress print your own poetry broadside with Mark Knudsen, Elmwood Press, and Norman McKnight, Philoxenia Press, with assistance from Li Jiang, Lemoncheese Press. The evening will feature a special Ralph Waldo Emerson poetry broadside designed by Philoxenia Press.

A limited number of broadsides will be printed. Participation on a first-come first-serve basis. No early arrivals. Doors open at 5:00pm.

Knott’s Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott’s Berry Farm
Wednesday, January 9, 2019, 5:30–7 PM
*A Southern California Program

Hospitality at 5:30 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Knott’s Preserved reveals exactly how the Knott family turned a berry business into one of the major theme parks in the world. The berries and fried chicken were a just a yummy lead-in to what would become a thrills capital of the world. J. Eric Lynxwiler will share the story of how a man and a woman remained true to their values, sharing profits and credit whenever they could while creating an icon California destination for thrill seekers and children alike.

An illustrated talk by J. Eric Lynxwiler, urban anthropologist and author.

At the Women’s City Club of Pasadena, 160 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101

Mission Murals – A Window on Humanity
Monday, January 7, 2019, 5–7 PM

Hospitality at 5 PM | Presentation at 6 PM

Dick Evans captures the pulse of life in the Mission District, the San Francisco neighborhood known for its murals and Latin American culture—and more recently for its rapid gentrification. Intimate, colorful images depict a place filled with diverse residents, stately Victorian houses, hand-painted store signs, Carnaval dancers, Día de los Muertos celebrants, political activists, and its namesake, Mission Dolores (here juxtaposed against portraits of Native people and indigenous cultural objects).

Evans’s photos highlight the growing threat to the neighborhood’s character, but they also reveal the many changes that have shaped the neighborhood into its vivacious present-day identity.

An illustrated talk by Dick Evans, photographer.

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