The True Story of an 'Okie' Family from the Great Depression through the Reagan Years
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 An account of the Okie migration to and love affair with California, from Washington Post reporter Morgan (Merchants of Grain, 1979). One summer when he was in college, Morgan retraced the route of John Steinbeck's Joad family, from Oklahoma to the Promised Land of California. The story of this great inland migration continued to fascinate him, and in the 1980's he researched a quintessential Okie family, the Tathams, as a kind of follow-up to The Grapes of Wrath. The Tathams were from eastern Oklahoma--Joad country--and, in fact, Morgan interviewed people who were long ago interviewed by Steinbeck. The Tathams have some outlaws in their ancestry, some bootleggers, but are descended mostly from hardscrabble pioneers who came over the Ozark plateau from Appalachia and made a living farming, working in the mines, and following various harvests north. Their no-nonsense, insular Pentecostalism held them together, and would carry them through the vicissitudes of California, too. Morgan follows them west to the migrant camps but also to modern California, where, for the most part, they have prospered in big farming, the defense industry, real estate, and even professional football. Not exactly a minority group, the Okies were and often remain a distinctive community, and retain strong ties to Oklahoma and to their faith, tested nowadays with issues like school prayer and abortion. A history of one family and a rich look at how we came to be what we are. If nothing else, Morgan will send you back to Steinbeck--which is a tribute to both writers. (Eight pages of judiciously selected photos.)

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1992
ISBN: 0-394-57453-2
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1992