2018: Year of the Women in The World of John Steinbeck

Image of 2018 John Steinbeck festival poster

Three sisters. Three wives. Three novels with female characters who are larger than life. Inspired by Ma Joad’s enduring example in The Grapes of Wrath, this year’s Steinbeck Festival will celebrate the women in John Steinbeck’s life and fiction over three days in May, at three venues associated with women Steinbeck cherished or invented. Sponsored by the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, the festival opens on Friday, May 4, and features an afternoon of seminars at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Center in Pacific Grove—where Steinbeck and his sister Mary studied biology as undergraduates—tours of the nearby “Doc” Ricketts lab where female visitors from Dora Flood’s place were always welcome in Cannery Row, and a full day of speeches and fun in the town where Steinbeck was a born and grew up, a slightly spoiled only son, and Cathy runs her brothel in East of Eden, without Dora’s kindness, Ma Joad’s goodness, or the nurturing instinct of Steinbeck’s mother, sisters, and wives (save one). Speakers include Richard Astro, the author of John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts; Mimi Gladstein, an expert on women in American fiction and the author of a study of Steinbeck’s female characters with the intriguing title “Maiden, Mother Crone”; and Susan Shillinglaw, director of the National Steinbeck Center and author of Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage. A full schedule of events and information about tickets and logistics can be found on the National Steinbeck Center’s festival page.

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  1. Roy Bentley says:

    Continues to be a great website, Will.

    Thanks for all you do!



  2. Michael E. Peterson says:

    The recently deceased writer, Ursula K. Le Guin’s latest book, the non-fiction “No Time To Spare” had a chapter dedicated to The Great American Novel. And of all the great novelists—Hawthorne, James, Twain, Faulkner, etc. the Great American Novel to her mind was “The Grapes of Wrath.” Let her explain:

    “If somebody came up to me in a dark alley with a sharp knife and said “Name The Great American Novel or die!’ I would gasp forth, squeakily, ‘The Grapes of Wrath!’ ”

    Late in life she re-read the novel through more knowlegable eyes:

    “When I got toward the end of the book, I stopped reading it. I couldn’t go on. I remembered just enough of that ending. And this time I was identified with all the people. I was lost in them. I had been living with tom and Ma and Rose of Sharon day and night, through the great journey and high hopes and the brief joys and endless suffering. I loved them and i could not bear to think what was coming. I didn’t want to go through with it. I shut the book and ran away.

    “Next day I picked it up and finished it, in tears the whole time.”

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