Readings • Exhibit

Saturday, October 19

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Ten Year Anniversary Celebration
No Place for a Puritan: Literature of California’s Deserts
Saturday October 19, 1 PM
San Bernardino County Museum
2024 Orange Tree Lane, Redlands

On October 19 at 1 pm, please join Inlandia Institute for a special ten year anniversary celebration of the launch of the anthology No Place for a Puritan: Literature of California’s Deserts. Admission is $10. Museum members and Inlandia members at the supporting level free with card.

This event is in concert with a special pop up exhibition, The Silver Lining Celebration of our Treasured Deserts, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the California Desert Protection Act coordinated by Voice Media in partnership with the Conservation Lands Foundation and the San Bernardino County Museum.

No Place for a Puritan was compiled and edited by Ruth Nolan and published under the Inlandia imprint by Heyday in 2009, and celebrates our southern California desert landscape.

Feared and romanticized throughout the ages, the desert has a hold on our imagination that is never more evident than in the literature it has inspired. From Mary Austin’s meditations in The Land of Little Rain to Joan Didion’s acerbic cast of characters in Play It As It Lays, the desert’s seemingly barren landscapes have provided rich ground for writers to explore.

These explorations were collected for the first time in No Place for a Puritan. In this anthology are stories that thrill, frighten, sadden, and inspire: a man foolishly and arrogantly collecting live rattlesnakes; a lone woman striving to make a home in a remote desert canyon; a drug-addled journalist’s drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; a Japanese American family coping with incarceration during World War II; and one man’s developing friendship with General Patton in a military training camp.

There are tales of spiritual and scientific discoveries and of the cities blossoming in the farthest corners of the California desert. Including the works of local writers—Susan Straight, Gayle Brandeis, Juan Felipe Herrera, Ruth Nolan, and others—as well as household names such as John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Krakauer, Rebecca Solnit, and Barry Lopez, No Place for a Puritan is a collection that disturbs and enchants.

Praise for No Place for a Puritan:

“With voices as varied and untamed, as resilient and beautiful, as the landscape itself, this anthology maps another misunderstood and too often overlooked region of our state.”–Alex Espinoza, author of Still Water Saints

Participating authors:

For 20 years Caryn Davidson worked in the education branch of Joshua Tree National Park, where she presented environmental education programs to students K-12, both in the classroom and in the park. She was the park liaison for the Artist-in-Residence program from its inception in 2006, until its demise in 2016. Recently she served as the director of education for Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in Morongo Valley, part of the new Sand to Snow National Monument. She holds a master’s degree in French Language and Literature from UCLA, and worked for the French Consulate in Los Angeles before moving to the desert in 1987. Free-lance translation and interpretation bolstered her income during impecunious times in graduate school. Caryn’s work has been published in The Stone, L.A. Weekly, GEO, Interpretive Writing, Phantom Seed, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California; The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, Picasso: Creator and Destroyer; Spillway, LAICA Journal, and several other magazines and journals. She has lived in Joshua Tree for 31 years.

Michael Madrigal is a member of the Cahuilla Band of Indians from the Cahuilla Indian Reservation located near Anza, California. He has been a lay administrator at St. Joseph Mission at the Soboba Indian Reservation for the past 25 years. He is currently entering the Graduate studies program in Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Riverside, concentrating in American Indian Studies. Growing up on the reservation Michael had the opportunity to learn about his tribal traditions from many elders including Katherine Saubel, Alvino Siva, Robert Levi, and Uncle Billy Mesa. Keeping vibrant the indigenous spiritual traditions of southern Califrornia tribes is one of his life vocations. Michael has also been president of the Native American Land Conservancy for the last ten years. The primary goal of the conservancy is to care for and preserve sacred landscapes for present and future generations, thereby honoring the ancient and ongoing relationship between Indigenous peoples and the land.

Ruth Nolan, former wildland firefighter for the BLM California Desert District and fierce California desert conservationist, is the editor of No Place for a Puritan: The Literature of California’s Deserts (Heyday Books) and co-editor of Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager,) which won a poetry book finalist award in the 2018 Eric Hoffer Independent Publishing Awards. Her short story, “Palimpsest,” published in LA Fiction: Southland Writing by Southland Writers (Red Hen Press), was nominated for a 2016 PEN Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers and also received an Honorable Mention Award in Sequestrum Magazine’s 2016 Editor’s Reprint contest. Her poetry collection Badwater placed as a finalist in the 2018 Hilary Gravendyk poetry book contest and she’s the author of the poetry book Ruby Mountain (Finishing Line Press) also won a 2017 California Writers Residency Award for her work on the community-inclusive Fire on the Mojave: Stories from the Deserts and Mountains of Inland Southern California book project. She is professor of English and creative writing at College of the Desert.

Rebecca K. O’Connor is Development Director at Rivers & Lands Conservancy, a falconer and an author. She has published reference books, pet owner’s manuals, novels and a memoir. Her falconry memoir, LIFT was published by Red Hen Press. Essays of her writing have been published in Los Angeles Times Magazine (in its West incarnation), South Dakota Review, Iron Horse Review and divide. He work has also been included in New California Writing 2011 and 2012. O’Connor’s most recent novel is We Were Wilder, a post-apocalyptic wilderness journey.

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