Dear California: The Golden State in Diaries and Letters

David Kipen

Redwood, 2023

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

Dispatches from a land of extremes, by writers and movie stars, natives and visitors, activists and pioneers, and more.

California has always been, literally, a place to write home about. Renowned figures and iconoclasts; politicians, actors, and artists; the world-famous and the not-so-much—all have contributed their voices to the patchwork of the state. With this book, cultural historian and California scholar David Kipen reveals this long-storied place through its diaries and letters, and gives readers a highly anticipated follow up to his book Dear Los Angeles.

Running from January 1 through December 31, leaping across decades and centuries, Dear California reflects on the state's shifting landscapes and the notion of place. Entries talk across the centuries, from indigenous stories told before the Spanish arrived on the Pacific coast through to present-day tweets, blogs, and other ephemera. The collected voices show how far we've wandered—and how far we still have to go in chasing the elusive California dream.

This is a book for readers who love California—and for anyone who simply treasures flavorful writing. Weaving together the personal, the insightful, the impressionistic, the lewd, and the hysterically funny, Dear California presents collected writings essential to understanding the diversity, antagonisms, and abiding promise of the Golden State.

Writings from Edward Abbey, Louis Armstrong, Ambrose Bierce, Octavia Butler, John Cage, Willa Cather, Cesar Chavez, Julia Child, Winston Churchill, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Einstein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Fonda, Allen Ginsberg, Dolores Huerta, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Steve Jobs, Billy Joel, Frida Kahlo, John F. Kennedy, Anne Lamott, John Lennon, Groucho Marx, Henri Matisse, Marshall McLuhan, Herman Melville, Charles Mingus, Marilyn Monroe, John Muir, Ronald Reagan, Sally Ride, Joan Rivers, Susan Sontag, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mark Zuckerberg, and many others.

California native David Kipen has worked as the San Francisco Chronicle's book editor/critic, Director of Literature at the NEA, and, lately, L.A. Times critic at large and founder-director of the Libros Schmibros Lending Library. Previous books include Dear Los Angeles and four reissued WPA Guides. His California-set historical paranoid conspiracy thriller, The Anniversarist, is forthcoming. Really.


"Is California a place of hopes or of despair? In Dear California, the voices of the famous—a snarky Cecil Beaton, a funny Albert Einstein—and long forgotten cleverly play off each other, with observations on the weather, water, the San Francisco/Los Angeles rivalry, and all things that make the state both loveable and maddening. Start at page one, choose your birthday, open at random—however you approach this book, you will find wonderful surprises." —Lisa See, author of The Island of Sea Women

"Dear California will cement David Kipen's reputation as a literary treasure of the West. With a series of intimate, spontaneous, and surprising moments, this collection revels in the many crazy and magical turns the Golden State has taken in its history." —Héctor Tobar, author of Deep Down Dark and Our Migrant Souls

"I always wanted to write a love letter to California, the state that, in many ways, saved my life and gave me a second chance. But David Kipen did it for me. And for many others. This is a wonderful book that digs deep into our souls and reflects, little by little, the magic of the Golden State. Pick a page, or a date, and be surprised or shocked. Just like California has done to millions." —Jorge Ramos, author and anchor, Univision News

"What a serious and fun book. With the incisive wit and words of many, Dear California captures the ethos of a place of mind and geography that never stops reaching for the brass ring. Despite an always fraught future, Californians push forward and overcome. David Kipen has captured the essence of that right here." —Michael Connelly, author of Desert Star