Known as “The Salad Bowl of the World,” California’s Salinas Valley became a farming empire because of the labor of diverse farmworkers, including Latinos. For much of the twentieth century, however, union-busting and racial marginalization hindered U.S. farmworkers from battling their exploitation in the fields.
Grounds for Dreaming is a sweeping critical history of how Mexican communities in agricultural California fought for equality and respect in a hostile climate of labor repression and xenophobia. Long before the seminal strikes led by Cesar Chavez, farmworkers wrote to newspapers, wore zoot suits, formed civil rights organizations, exercised their vote, and filed landmark lawsuits against agribusiness. Along with examining these political acts, Lori Flores looks closely at how three different groups of Mexicans—U.S. born, bracero guestworker, and undocumented immigrant—confronted and interacted with one another during this period.
Modern debates about workers’ rights, race relations, and immigration are nothing new and deeply rooted in the past. In this incisive study of how a California community took center stage at key moments in America’s labor and civil rights movements, Flores offers crucial insights about today’s ever growing U.S. Latino demographic, the ongoing campaign for farmworker justice, and future immigration policy.
Update: Grounds for Dreaming has been named BEST FIRST BOOK by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, BEST HISTORY BOOK by the International Latino Book Awards and an HONORABLE MENTION for the Gita Chaudhuri Book Prize!
“The place long celebrated as America’s salad bowl reveals itself in Lori Flores’s eloquent and deeply researched account to be an unusually potent vantage point from which to assess not only the forces behind much of our food production but also the making of American ideas of race and community, and our capacity for reform and social justice. Grounds for Dreaming represents the debut of an important new voice in American history."—Karl Jacoby, Columbia University
"Flores's work is so very layered and nuanced...Her attention to national trends and policy make this work accessible...[and] a critical volume for any scholar interested in labor organizing or farmworker movements in the late twentieth century."—Linda Heidenreich, Washington State University
"A beautifully crafted community history that underscores the significance of rural lives, especially Mexican lives, to California and the nation. With a vibrant grace, Flores chronicles the people and events that made Salinas a crucible for farm labor relations."—Vicki L. Ruiz, University of California, Irvine
"This terrific study of California's allimportant Salinas Valley is the first to capture that region’s history from the 1930s into the 1990s. Beautifully written and researched, it will be indispensable for general readers and for scholars interested in Western agriculture, civil rights movements, and Latino history."—Stephen Pitti, Yale University
Listen to a podcast interview about the book by the New Books Network here.
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