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 47 Kearny Street, Suite 400 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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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

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

The fields of book history and bibliography are having a cultural reckoning. The Women in Book History Bibliography (womensbookhistory.org) has acted as an impetus for championing the “lost” histories of women in the book trades and as a tool for arguing for further recovery work. Still in progress, the bibliography currently consists of over 2000 citations of scholarly work that has otherwise been made inaccessible due to problematic indexing practices. This lecture will combine an overview of historical figures and a discussion of the ways that bibliographical practices can make – or erase – history.

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

** 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 Executive Director of the Grolier Club

** 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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