Quay_interviews

Quay_interviews - 197 1 96 B RIAN A SCALON R OLEY and n ot paying attention and he does not see me sitting o n the edge o f the porch until he is

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196 . BRIAN ASCALON ROLEY and not paying attention and he does not see me sitting on the edge of the porch until he is almost upon me. Startled, he halts suddenly and there is a moment of fear in his eyes and then he recognizes that it is only 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 focus 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 their unique part of the California swry. The stories chronicled by these projects are by turns proud, angry, tragic, and inspiring, but early on I was as struck by their similarities as by their diversiry. California is one of those places that has an image-usually characterized as "The California Dream" or something similar-suggesting equal elements of good weather, opportunity for striking it rich, and freedoms social, sexual, and artistic. But anyone Who lives here for a time knows that the boundanes of the state encompass many Californias, 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 Californians
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198 . JAMES QUAY from different parts of the state and different walks of life- writers, artists, scientists, activists, educators, public officials~ some prominent, some not. 1 used the same set of questions for all of the interviews, beginning with how and why these people came to live in California and then exploring their particular identification with places or things that seem most Californian to them. The state's vaunted diversity asserted itself in the interviews, of course, but after the first dozen or so, I found that one particular word kept surfacing: hope. These people or their ancestors may have been drawn to California because of an image or a dream- something as grand as the gold rush or as simple as a job and good weather. They often encountered realities that tarnished or destroyed those initial images or dreams. But those who stayed -and everyone I interviewed has obviously stayed- spoke about the persistent sense of hope they associate with California. So I added a final element to the interview, asking people to respond to the following idea, adapted to California from a statement scholar Samuel P. Huntington made about the United States in his American Politics: "Critics say that California is a lie because its reality falls so far short of its ideals. They are wrong.
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This note was uploaded on 09/29/2011 for the course ENG 410 taught by Professor Hilbert during the Spring '08 term at S.F. State.

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Quay_interviews - 197 1 96 B RIAN A SCALON R OLEY and n ot paying attention and he does not see me sitting o n the edge o f the porch until he is

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