California Drought: The Grapes of Wrath Today (9-12)

The Grapes of Wrath, the classic novel of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, is disturbingly contemporary. It is the story of natural disasters, economic collapse, corporate greed, homelessness, migration, and social and labor activism—many of the topics that we see in the news today, almost 70 years after the novel was written. As we read John Steinbeck’s novel, we’ll explore the world this novel represents, and use the novel as a lens to examine the world today. We’ll meet with agricultural workers in California’s Central Valley, Dust Bowl migrants who still recall the Great Depression and the 1930s, documentary photographers and filmmakers who look at the ways Steinbeck’s novel seems to live on in today’s world. We’ll also listen to folk and country music, watch the films that relate to this novel, and do some line dancing to country music the Crystal Palace to round out our study of this novel.

This class is co-taught by Rick Wartzman, an Oakwood parent, reporter, and executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. Rick’s been studying California and Steinbeck’s novel for decades, and has written two books on this subject – King of California, a book about farming in California, and Obscene in the Extreme, a history of the banning of Grapes of Wrath.

Victor Cohen