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Quay_interviews - 197 1 96 B RIAN A SCALON R OLEY and n ot...

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196 . BRIAN ASCALON ROLEY and n ot paying attention and he does not see me sitting on the edge of the porch until he is almost upon m e. Startled, he halts sudde nl y and there is a moment of fear in his eyes and then he recognizes that it is o nl y me and they calm again. Hey; he says. I nod. EarUer he seemed afraid of me, around the dogs and Tomas, but now that his eyes are calm I have to fo cus on his chin so it will look like I am holding eye contact. He appears to be waiting for me w say something, but I cannot think of anything, and he continues on and leaves, - 197 James Quay Interviews As executive director of the California Council for the Humanities since 1983. it's been my privilege to oversee hundreds of public projects in which Californians attempt to document, express, and interpret th e ir unique part of the California swry. The stories chronicled by th ese pr ojects are by turns proud, angry, tragic, and inspiring, but early on I was as struck by their similarities as by th ei r diver siry. Ca lifornia is one of those places that ha s an image-usua ll y characterized as " The California Dream" or something si milar- suggesting equal elements of good weather, opportunity for striking it rich, and freedoms social, sexual, and artistic. But anyone Who li ves here for a time knows that the boundanes of the state encompass many Californ ias, and that generalizations about the state are reductive and usually ridiculous. Nevertheless, "California" does stand for something in the global imagination and. while it was easy to dismiss the usual Sunday supplement definitions of California as dream or night- mare, I began to wonder what, if anything, it meant to be a Californian. I decided to find out by interviewing Calif orn ians
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198 . JAMES QUAY from different parts of the state and different walks of life - writers, artist s, scientists, ac tivists, educators, public officials ~ some prominent, some no t. 1 used the same set of questions for all of the interviews, beginning with how and why th ese people ca me to li ve in Calif ornia and then exploring their particular identification w ith pla ces or things that seem most Californian to them. The state's va unt ed di versi ty asserted it se lf in th e interviews, of co ur se, but after the first dozen or so, I found that one part icular word kept surfacing: hope. These people or their ancestors may have been drawn to California because of an image or a dream- somet hing as grand as the gold rush or as simple as a job and good weather. They of ten enco unt ered realities that tarnished or destroyed tho se init ial images or dreams. But those who stayed -and everyone I interviewed has obviously stayed- spoke about th e persistent sense of hope they associate wi th California.
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