Local News

Monday, Jul 22 2013 02:36 PM

Oildale-bred author Haslam to receive national award

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Author Gerald Haslam has a twinkle in his eye as he listens to a question about his work in the living room of his home in Penngrove.

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    By The Californian

    Author Gerald Haslam, who has written several books on California, will discuss John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” on Feb. 5.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Oildale native son and author Gerald Haslam next to a heritage oak tree in the backyard of his home in Penngrove. His wife designed their house to be built around the tree.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Author Gerald Haslam talks about his writing in the living room of his home in Penngrove.

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield's most acclaimed author is the recipient of yet another prestigious award.

The American Association for State and Local History has chosen Oildale native Gerald Haslam and his editor and wife, Janice Haslam, to receive the Award of Merit from the association's Leadership in History Awards.

The couple were singled out for their book "In Thought and Action: The Enigmatic Life of S.I. Hayakawa,"published in November 2011 by University of Nebraska Press. The biography of the teacher who became a college president and later a U.S. senator draws on interviews with friends and family members, as well as Hayakawa's own papers and journals.

The Leadership in History Awards program was begun in 1945 "to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States," the Nashville-based association said in its news release.

Presentation of the awards will be made at a banquet at the association's annual meeting to be held Sept. 20 in Birmingham, Ala.

"It's always nice to win an award," the 76-year-old author said in an email, "especially for a book that was so studiously ignored by what have been my major review sources -- the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. My version of Hayakawa wasn't politically correct."

In previous decades, the association has honored such Haslam titles as "Workin' Man Blues: Country Music in California" and "The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland."

In 2006, he received the Josephine Miles National Literary Award for "Haslam's Valley," and in 2000, the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award for "Workin' Man Blues."

Haslam, who has battled cancer for more than 16 years, has slowed his travel schedule considerably in recent years. It's unlikely, he said, that he and Janice will be able to attend the event in Birmingham.

The retired Sonoma State University professor is the author of dozens of published works, including novels, short story collections, essays and non-fiction works. He and Janice live near Petaluma.

Despite the physical challenges, Haslam has continued to write as if his life depended on it.

He's recently finished the first draft of a biography of Leon Patterson, a phenomenal athlete from Taft who broke several track-and-field records in the early 1960s after being diagnosed with Bright's disease, a then-incurable kidney ailment.

Haslam said he will have an article about Patterson featured in the fall issue of "BOOM: A Journal of California."

Meanwhile, the busy author has a second project in the works.

"Once the Patterson book is polished and away with a publisher," he said, "I'll return to the draft of a novel about a bay-area college in the '60s."

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