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2006 January February Chinafornia

Professor Dundes, Caffe Strada, and Me

Or how to write 50,000 words in 30 days Four years after I graduated from Cal, I accidentally started a movement that now produces more fiction than all of America’s MFA programs combined. The year was 1999, and I was living in Oakland, still trying to figure out what to do with my degree in cultural […]

Chasing General Lee

By the time Robert E. Lee was born in 1807, slavery had spread widely across the American landscape but was concentrated in the Deep South, in cotton-growing areas. Lee’s home in northern Virginia, the so-called Upper South, grew almost no cotton. The cash crops of Virginia were tobacco, corn, and wheat, and its beautiful and […]


The most exciting music in Peru these days mixes the traditional with the unexpected. Delicate, folksy guitar sounds blend with soft percussion beats, and then the velvety vocals come in strongly, belting out a chorus: “Black is my color, and proud I feel.” This is Perú Negro, or Black Peru, the musical troupe at the […]

Alumnus of the Year: Karl Pister

A man of the campus Karl Pister’s sublime Berkeley moment arrives often and like an expected guest when he mounts the stepped bridge spanning the south fork of Strawberry Creek and crosses into Faculty Glade. There, on the pitched grass bowl that once hosted Ohlone campers, time defers to him. There, he keeps an appointment with […]

Image source: Reagan Louie


In myriad ways, California is moving West to East. Competition, cooperation, and assimilation—these characterize California’s ever-closer connections to greater China. For as the world grows smaller and China’s presence looms ever larger, no place feels this global convergence more than California, where more than 10 percent of the population is Asian; where California businesses send billions […]

Image source: Photofest, Getty Images

Wild, Wild East

When Bruce Lee first flew like an avenging god across the silver screen with his awe-inspiring kicks, he redefined cinematic action and brought the heroic Asian male onto the world stage. Picture this sun-drenched memory: I am five years old, in white pajamas, and swinging on a hammock. On the flame trees the cicadas are humming, […]

Image source: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Arnold’s Dilemma

Voters want a governor who can unite the state, but California’s political structure encourages polarization. Schwarzenegger is just the latest victim. Standing before a podium in the Ronald Reagan Cabinet Room of the state capitol, with a bust of the former president peering over his left shoulder, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on June 13 that he was […]

Image source: Mark Peterson/Redux


The traditional task of the writer in California has been to write about what it means to be human in a place advertised as paradise. Disappointment has always been the theme. The literature to come will begin with a different expectation.