Upcoming Events

The Book Club of California is offering in-person and online programs and activities. Hybrid events with in-person attendance and a streaming element are also held.

In-person programs without a virtual component may be recorded for online viewing on our YouTube Channel after the event.

Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public and take place at the Book Club of California located at 312 Sutter Street, Suite 500 in San Francisco.

Please refer to the description under each event.

Email programs@bccbooks.org for any questions, or call (415) 781-7532 ext. 2. Many of our staff will be working remotely so please contact them by email or phone. Staff contact information can be found on our website.
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The New Suburbia: How Diversity Remade Suburban Life in Los Angeles after 1945

Monday, July 1, 2024, 5-6:15 PM (Pacific)
| Virtual Presentation

5:00 PM Pacific – Program

America’s suburbs have been transforming. The conventional story of suburbs as bastions of white, middle-class homeowners no longer describes suburban realities. Today they house a more typical cross-section of the nation—rich, poor, Black American, Latino, Asian, immigrant, the unhoused, the lavishly housed, and everyone in between. Stories of everyday suburban life, in the process, have taken on new inflections.

Nowhere are these changes more vivid than in Los Angeles. In this suburban metropolis and global powerhouse, lily white suburbs have virtually disappeared, and over two-thirds of the County’s suburbs have become majority minority, placing LA at the vanguard of national changes. In Los Angeles, suburban diversification happened earlier and more intensively, offering a glimpse into what may well be America’s future. In The New Suburbia, historian Becky Nicolaides follows the Asian Americans, Black Americans, and Latinos who moved into white neighborhoods that once barred them. They bought homes, enrolled their children in schools, and began navigating suburban life. In places like Pasadena, San Marino, South Gate, and Lakewood, suburbanites faced the challenges of living together in difference. In some communities, diverse residents continued longstanding habits of exclusion and perpetuated metropolitan inequality. In others, they embraced more inclusive, multicultural suburban ideals. Through it all, the common denominators of suburbia remained—low-slung landscapes of single-family homes and families seeking the good life.

Based on a half-century of quantitative data and unpublished oral histories and interviews, The New Suburbia explores vital landscapes where the American dream has endured, even as the dreamers have changed.

A virtual presentation by Becky N. Nicolaides, author, historian, and Research Affiliate at the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West


Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom


Al Martinez in the Korean War: A Future Columnist Hones His Craft

Monday, July 8, 2024, 5-6:15 PM (Pacific)
| Virtual Presentation

5:00 PM Pacific – Program

For more than twenty years, the Los Angeles Times columnist Al Martinez (1929-2015) delighted, and enriched the lives of, thousands of readers across southern California. An Oakland native, he attended San Francisco State College. Later, he was a reporter for the Richmond Independent and the Oakland Tribune before being lured to Los Angeles to write for the Times. By the time he retired in 2009, he had earned an extensive array of awards and honors, including three shared Pulitzers and the National Headliner Award for the best column in the U.S.

Before becoming a professional journalist, Martinez served in the Korean War at the age of 21 with the U.S. Marines, from 1951-1952, first on the battle front and then as a war correspondent. He dispatched letters almost daily to his young bride Joanne.

Now a volume of Al Martinez’ Korean War letters, I Promise You I’ll Be Home, has been published by McFarland and Co. Written from the unique perspective of an obviously gifted professional writer at the beginning of his career, his letters home capture his experiences eloquently and with depth of understanding as they express the dangers, hardships, fear, friendships, and even humor of life at the front. His vivid, often humorous pen-and-ink drawings portray scenes from the front lines.

The letters are all housed in the archive of his papers at The Huntington Library. They form not only an important record for the history of the largely ignored Korean War, but also a crackling good narrative of one Marine’s time at the battle front and as a combat correspondent. Even as a young writer, he was among the very best in storytelling and in the elegance of his prose.

A virtual presentation by Sara S. Hodson, author and retired curator of literary collections for The Huntington Library


Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom

Judson: Innovation in Stained Glass

Wednesday, July 10, 2024, 6-7:15 PM (Pacific)
| In-Person Presentation

5:30 PM Pacific – Reception
6:00 PM Pacific – Program

Pasadena Heritage | 160 N Oakland Avenue | Pasadena, California 91101

Five generations of Judsons have worked with artists, architects, and designers to create Old World-style stained glass whose quality and craftsmanship has often been compared to the work of Louis Tiffany. Famed for its Craftsman glass, Judson arts-and-crafts era windows have been celebrated by experts in the field for decades. Judson’s work with Frank Lloyd Wright on Hollyhock House in the 1920s was recently re-saluted when the house was named to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Established in Pasadena during the heyday of the Arroyo Culture, headquarters of Judson Studios are still housed in the original Craftsman-era home and studio of patriarch William Lees Judson.

Much of Judson’s finest early work was installed in religious buildings. Along with the studio’s numerous institutional and residential projects, JUDSON: Innovation in Stained Glass illustrates fine work in churches dating back to the early twentieth century. Modern work is also featured, including the extraordinary Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs, completed in 1962, a mid-century wonder whose soaring panels of color introduced an architecturally mesmerizing approach to stained glass that had never been executed before.

Once Judson Studios developed methods for blending subtle variations of color in glass for the Church of the Resurrection window, the possibilities of glass as an artist’s medium were apparent. Now, in addition to its work in traditional leaded stained glass, Judson Studios is working with fine artists creating effects in fused glass that were previously unachievable. Most recently, fine artist Sarah Cain worked with Judson Studios to create a work in glass 10 feet high by 150 feet long; it was installed at the San Francisco International Airport in July 2019.

An in-person presentation by David Judson, author and president of Judson Studios


Click here to REGISTER to attend in-person at Pasadena Heritage

California, a Slave State

Monday, July 15, 2024, 5-6:15 PM (Pacific)
| Virtual Presentation

5:00 PM Pacific – Program

California owes its origins and sunny prosperity to slavery. Spanish invaders captured Indigenous people to build the chain of Catholic missions. Russian otter hunters shipped Alaska Natives—the first slaves transported into California—and launched a Pacific slave triangle to China. Plantation slaves were marched across the plains for the Gold Rush. San Quentin Prison incubated California’s carceral state. Kidnapped Chinese girls were sold in caged brothels in early San Francisco. Indian boarding schools supplied new farms and hotels with unfree child workers.

By looking west to California, Jean Pfaelzer upends our understanding of slavery as a North-South struggle and reveals how the enslaved in California fought, fled, and resisted human bondage. In unyielding research and vivid interviews, Pfaelzer exposes how California gorged on slavery, an appetite that persists today in a global trade in human beings lured by promises of jobs but who instead are imprisoned in sweatshops and remote marijuana grows, or sold as nannies and sex workers.

A virtual presentation by Jean Pfaelzer, author and professor emerita of English and American Studies, University of Delaware


Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom


The Material Culture of Advertising: Treasures from the Winterthur Library’s Collection of Trade Literature

Monday, July 22, 2024, 5-6:15 PM (Pacific)
| Virtual Presentation

5:00 PM Pacific – Program

Before Amazon, before big box stores, and even before mailboxes sagged under the weight of catalogs in the mid-20th century, customers and shop-owners alike turned to a wide variety of media to select their purchases, and to aspire to grander lifestyles. Trade cards, trade catalogs, advertising ephemera, and sales samples illuminate the art of buying, selling, and dreaming in the past, painting a picture of the everyday lives of Americans as consumers. These items can be quite beautiful – they were created to facilitate sales, after all – and reflect broader aesthetic trends, as well as advertising styles, cultural values, and the distribution of products historically. And beyond its intended use as a promotional tool, trade media often found a second life at the hands of 19th century scrapbookers.

The dynamic nature of trade material makes it a valuable tool for research, as well as creative inspiration. The Winterthur Library, located outside Wilmington, Delaware, holds a vibrant and vast collection of such trade material, including fabric swatch books, hand-drawn watercolor catalogs, engraved promotional cards, chromolithographed labels, and more – hundreds of thousands of items. Join Winterthur Library Curator of Special Collections Allie Alvis as they journey through 400 years of advertising and promotion in America and Europe, highlighting some of the wonderful (and sometimes weird) trade treasures from the library’s collection and presenting them in the broader milieu of material culture.

A virtual presentation by Alexandra Alvis, book historian and curator, special collections, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library


Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom

Black Woman on Board: Claudia Hampton, the California State University, and the Fight to Save Affirmative Action

Monday, August 12, 2024, 5-6:15 PM (Pacific)
| Virtual Presentation

5:00 PM Pacific – Program

Black Woman on Board: Claudia Hampton, the California State University, and the Fight to Save Affirmative Action examines the leadership strategies that Black women educators have employed as influential power brokers in predominantly white colleges and universities in the United States. Author Donna J. Nicol tells the extraordinary story of Dr. Claudia H. Hampton, the California State University (CSU) system’s first Black woman trustee, who later became the board’s first woman chair, and her twenty-year fight (1974–94) to increase access within the CSU for historically marginalized and underrepresented groups. Amid a growing white backlash against changes brought on by the 1960s Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, Nicol argues that Hampton enacted “sly civility” to persuade fellow trustees, CSU system officials, and state lawmakers to enforce federal and state affirmative action mandates.

Black Woman on Board explores how Hampton methodically “played the game of boardsmanship,” using the soft power she cultivated amongst her peers to remove barriers that might have impeded the implementation and expansion of affirmative action policies and programs. In illuminating the ways that Hampton transformed the CSU as the “affirmative action trustee,” this remarkable book makes an important contribution to the history of higher education and to the historiography of Black women’s educational leadership in the post-Civil Rights era.

A virtual presentation by Dr. Donna J. Nicol, associate dean, College of Liberal Arts, California State University, Long Beach, CA


Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom


Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong

Wednesday, August 14, 2024, 5-6:15 PM (Pacific)
| In-Person Presentation

5:30 PM Pacific – Reception
6:00 PM Pacific – Program

Pasadena Heritage | 160 N Oakland Avenue | Pasadena, California 91101

Set against the glittering backdrop of Los Angeles during the gin-soaked Jazz Age and the rise of Hollywood, this debut book celebrates Anna May Wong, the first Asian American movie star, to bring an unsung heroine to light and reclaim her place in cinema history.

Before Constance Wu, Sandra Oh, Awkwafina, or Lucy Liu, there was Anna May Wong. In her time, she was a legendary beauty, witty conversationalist, and fashion icon. Plucked from her family’s laundry business in Los Angeles, Anna May Wong rose to stardom in Douglas Fairbanks’s blockbuster The Thief of Bagdad. Fans and the press clamored to see more of this unlikely actress, but when Hollywood repeatedly cast her in stereotypical roles, she headed abroad in protest.

Anna May starred in acclaimed films in Berlin, Paris, and London. She dazzled royalty and heads of state across several nations, leaving trails of suitors in her wake. She returned to challenge Hollywood at its own game by speaking out about the industry’s blatant racism. She used her new stature to move away from her typecasting as the China doll or dragon lady, and worked to reshape Asian American representation in film.

Filled with stories of capricious directors and admiring costars, glamorous parties and far-flung love affairs, Not Your China Doll showcases the vibrant, radical life of a groundbreaking artist.

An in-person presentation by Katie Gee Salisbury, author and photographer


Click here to REGISTER to attend in-person at Pasadena Heritage

The Alcott Family — Lessons from the 19th Century

Monday, August 19, 2024, 5-6:15 PM (Pacific)
| Virtual Presentation

5:00 PM Pacific – Program

Progressive school founder, collector and bibliophile Kent Bicknell will present on his Alcott Family Collection, winner of a recent prize from the New England-based Ticknor Society. Built around the lives and work of Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), her talented sister, the artist May Alcott Nieriker, and her parents, social worker, Abigail Alcott and progressive educator and reformer, Bronson Alcott, highlights include an account of Bronson Alcott’s famed Temple School in Boston; Louisa’s annotated copy of A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson; and four unpublished letters from the artist, May Alcott Nieriker, along with images of her paintings. Through more than thirty years of collecting, Kent has assembled a group of primary and secondary source materials related to this relatively “modern” family, and will share select manuscripts, rare books, letters and artwork to reveal stories that connect the Alcott family to each other, to the larger community of the 19th century, and to our own lives today.

A virtual presentation by Kent Bicknell, author, scholar, and collector


Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom

American Burial Ground: A New History of the Overland Trail

Monday, August 26, 2024, 6-7:15 PM (Pacific)
| In-Person and Virtual Presentation

5:30 PM Pacific – Reception
6:00 PM Pacific – Program

In popular mythology, the Overland Trail is typically a triumphant tale, with plucky easterners crossing the Plains in caravans of covered wagons. But not everyone reached Oregon and California. Some 6,600 migrants perished along the way and were buried where they fell, often on Indigenous land. As historian Sarah Keyes illuminates, their graves ultimately became the seeds of U.S. expansion.

By the 1850s, cholera epidemics, ordinary diseases, and violence had remade the Trail into an American burial ground that imbued migrant deaths with symbolic power. In subsequent decades, U.S. officials and citizens leveraged Trail graves to claim Native ground. Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples pointed to their own sacred burial grounds to dispute these same claims and maintain their land. These efforts built on anti-removal campaigns of the 1820s and 30s, which had established the link between death and territorial claims on which the significance of the Overland Trail came to rest.

In placing death at the center of the history of the Overland Trail, American Burial Ground offers a sweeping and long overdue reinterpretation of this historic touchstone. In this telling, westward migration was a harrowing journey weighed down by the demands of caring for the sick and dying. From a tale of triumph comes one of struggle, defined as much by Indigenous peoples’ actions as it was by white expansion. And, finally, from a migration to the Pacific emerges instead a trail of graves. Graves that ultimately undergirded Native dispossession.

An in-person and virtual presentation by Sarah Keyes, author, historian, and assistant professor of history, University of Nevada, Reno


Click here to REGISTER to attend in-person at The Book Club of California

Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom

Redemptive Dreams: Engaging Kevin Starr’s California

Wednesday, September 11, 2024, 6-7:15 PM (Pacific)
| In-Person Presentation

5:30 PM Pacific – Reception
6:00 PM Pacific – Program

Pasadena Heritage | 160 N Oakland Avenue | Pasadena, California 91101

An essential piece in California Studies, Redemptive Dreams: Engaging Kevin Starr’s California offers the first critical engagement with the vision of California’s most ambitious interpreter. While Starr’s multifaceted and polymathic vision of California offered a unique gaze—synthesizing central features, big themes, and incredible problems with the propitious golden dream—his eight-volume California Dream series, along with several other books and thousands of published articles and essays, often puzzled historians and other scholars. Historians in the contemporary school of critical historiography often found Starr’s narrative approach—seeking to tell the internal drama of the California story—to be less attuned to the most important work happening in the field. Such a perspective fails to acknowledge key developments in historical subfields like Black and African American Studies, Chicana/o/x Studies, Asian Studies, Native Studies, and others that draw from the narrative in their critical work and how this relates to Starr’s contribution. Along with being a major figure in California institutional life, with literary output spanning genres, it is through the lens of his lived experience as a devout Catholic that this critical sociological perspective sheds new light on his project. With contributions from sociology, history, and theology, akin to investigations appearing in Theology and California: Theological Refractions on California’s Culture (Routledge), Redemptive Dreams offers interdisciplinary perspectives that highlight key features inherent in interdisciplinary theological reflection on place and illuminates these diverse disciplinary discourses as they appear in Starr’s articulation of the California Dream.

An in-person and virtual presentation by Jason S. Sexton, author and professor of sociology at University of California, Los Angeles


Click here to REGISTER to attend in-person at Pasadena Heritage

A ‘Deep City’ Approach to Climate Change: The Case of Deep Oakland

Monday, September 16, 2024, 6-7:15 PM (Pacific)
| In-Person and Virtual Presentation

5:30 PM Pacific – Reception
6:00 PM Pacific – Program

Deep Oakland: How Geology Shaped a City, presents a seldom-attempted blend of human and geologic history, explaining the stories told by the physical landscape and detailing how the city has interacted with it. Wealth generated in the region from its geological resources―water, stone, soil and minerals―has influenced societies from the pre-contact Ohlones to the Americans of yesterday and today. So have the hazards of earthquake, fire, drought and changing sea level. Today, climate change has shown us that nature and civilization are not separate realms; the idea they are is an illusion that grows ever more costly.

The topic of a city’s rocks and landmarks is a natural entree to a more global, “deep time” centered standpoint that can enrich readers in new ways as they guide their communities toward more sustainable policies. The pleasures of learning to see one’s familiar surroundings in new depth, as geoheritage, translate to deeper engagement in determining a city’s collective future. Recent advances in geology, from plate tectonics to digital visualizations, have given geologists unprecedented ways to tell the histories of the cities they live in; Deep Oakland proves the power of a geologist’s approach to equip the public for policy engagement based on nature’s long-term trends and demands.

An in-person and virtual presentation by Andrew Alden, geologist and geoscience writer


Click here to REGISTER to attend in-person at The Book Club of California

Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom

Women’s Book History and the Knowledge Revolution

Monday, September 23, 2024, 6-7:15 PM (Pacific)
| In-Person and Virtual Presentation

5:30 PM Pacific – Reception
6:00 PM Pacific – Program

An in-person presentation by Cait Coker, associate professor and curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Further description to come.

** Co-presented and co-hosted by the Northern California Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America **


Click here to REGISTER to attend in-person at The Book Club of California

Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom

The White Whale: Moby-Dick Illustrated

Monday, September 30, 2024, 6-7:15 PM (Pacific)
| In-Person and Virtual Presentation

5:30 PM Pacific – Reception
6:00 PM Pacific – Program

At the time of Herman Melville’s death, in 1891, his novels had fallen into obscurity. Moby-Dick, his masterwork published in 1851, was out of print and unread. But in the 1920s, critical reassessments led to a “Melville revival.”

This lecture surveys some of the famous and less well-known illustrated editions, artists’ books, and other visual interpretations, examining their role in establishing the unassailable reputation of Moby-Dick as the great American novel.

An in-person presentation by Declan Kiely, author, lecturer, and former director of exhibitions at New York Public Library and the Morgan Library and Museum

** The Windle-Loker Lecture Series on the History of the Illustrated Book **

** Co-presented and co-hosted by the American Trust for the British Library **


Click here to REGISTER to attend in-person at The Book Club of California

Click here to REGISTER for the Virtual Presentation on Zoom

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