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The California Book Club

Just as winter begins to settle across the Golden State, chilly nights call for a warm blanket and cup of tea (or glass of California wine) while diving into stories about California from those who know it best – local writers. From fiction to nonfiction, the California Book Club is an inclusive list representing personal and historical experiences from various authors, including BIPOC and LGBTQ writers. As always, please support your local bookstore when purchasing books.

There There by Tommy Orange
In his 2018 debut novel There There, Oakland native Tommy Orange tells the powerful story of 12 Native Americans traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, each questioning their identity and authenticity against the backdrop of their culture and history. Orange is an award-winning author and a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations of Oklahoma.

America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
In this multigenerational tale of female immigrants, Elaine Castillo’s debut novel, America is Not the Heart, follows a family coming to terms with the life they left in the Philippines while building a new one in California. Set partly in her hometown of Milpitas, Castillo is openly bisexual and strived to include LGBTQ representation in her novel.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Set in and around Los Angeles, The Sellout is a satirical story of a young protagonist’s journey to the Supreme Court, all while touching on urban living, race equality, civil unrest and a tempermental father-son relationship. Paul Beatty is an award-winning author whose life experiences growing up in Los Angeles are reflected in this must-read book.

Bone by Fae Myenne Ng
Taking place in her hometown of San Francisco, Fae Myenne Ng’s emotionally-driven debut novel, Bone is a tale of loss, pain and growth as a family struggles to maintain traditions while learning what it means to be American. From her perspective as a first-generation Chinese American, Ng offers outsiders a glimpse into a world often too familiar for immigrant families.

Live from Fresno y Los by Stephen D. Gutiérrez
Live from Fresno y Los is a collection of short stories from Stephen D. Gutierrez that follow the trials and tribulations of Chicano characters as they cope with life’s growing pains across the hills and valleys of Fresno and Los Angeles. Having grown up in Montebello, outside downtown Los Angeles, Gutiérrez creatively dives into a world familiar to his childhood and a community often overlooked to share a beautiful Chicano culture filled with truth, identity and beauty.

Golden Poppies by Laila Ibrahim
Set between Oakland and Chicago, Golden Poppies explores the relationship between two women living miles apart yet connected through their families who years prior coexisted on a plantation in Virginia. The sequel to Yellow Crocus and Mustard Seed, Ibrahim uses Golden Poppies to dive into the Great Migration, women’s suffrage and what the female protagonists must do for a brighter future.

Elsewhere, California by Dana Johnson
In Elsewhere, California, Los Angeles native Dana Johnson explores the complicated yet graceful story of Avery, a young Black woman who flees the violent streets of her childhood for gentrified suburban West Covina. Faced with a new lease on life while trying to claim her place in the world, Avery reinvents herself but questions her identity and a past life she no longer wants.

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
Applauded as one of the best books of 2018, The Golden State follows the emotionally-driven road-trip of a mother (and child) who leave San Francisco for the high desert of Alta Vista while enduring the ups and downs of motherhood in a country not always on her side.

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Shanti Sekaran’s Lucky Boy shines a spotlight on two mothers from different backgrounds, one Mexican the other Indian American, each drawn to the other over a baby, “lucky boy.” Set in Berkeley, Sekaran strives to share different immigrant stories not often heard so others have a better understanding of people's dreams, hope and journey for a better life.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
In her debut New York Times-bestselling novel, The Mothers, Oceanside native Brit Bennett tells the story of a young woman who must face the suicide of her mother while confronting a secret in a small Black community in Southern California. Bennett is also known for The Vanishing Half which debuted at number one on The New York Times bestseller list.

Black Artists in Oakland by Duane Deterville and Jerry Thompson
Known for its vibrant history and cultural heritage, authors Duane Deterville and Jerry Thompson bring to life Oakland’s contribution to music, dance, visual arts and literature in Black Artists in Oakland featuring the best artists, writers and entertainers from the 1940s to 1990s.

The Last Season by Eric Blehm
California native Eric Blehm tells the true story of the disappearance and search for Randy Morgenson, a National Park Service ranger who went missing in the beautiful Sierra Nevada. The Last Season delivers a detective-inspired recount of what may have happened to Morgenson while painting a picturesque vision of California’s captivating, yet mysterious, mountains.

Nemesis: A Novel of Old California by Joe Yogerst
In Nemesis: A Novel of Old California, Joe Yogerst weaves a tale of San Diego’s attraction during the 1880s where settlers enjoyed oceanfront land, year-round warm weather and merchant deals, but also shares what happens when good friends become rivals in his home city.