3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
The United States Congress went home in June, 1849, without acting on the problem of what to do with its brand new territory out on the west coast. That was pretty irresponsible of them since so many U.S. citizens were purposely heading that direction and gold was the ultimate prize. The California gold rush was a serious business for fortune seekers and adventurers. These intent people shared common goals: find gold, thrive, survive, and keep gold. They got together, chose 48 men, and created a common sense, to-the-point state constitution to promote a sense of order and keep peace. With that accomplished, two men were chosen to deliver the document to the returning congress. The self-created document did the job and was well admired in its simplicity. In his book, California: On the Edge of American History, Ronald Genini seeks to inspire readers through the bold undertakings and audacious characters of California’s history along with a survey of scenery, climate, and natural resources. Returning to the present, Mr. Genini attempts to compare the current state constitution and leadership to the efficiency of the original document and the spirit of leadership among the forty-niners as they expedited California statehood, and to extend that comparison to the spirit and grit of all California’s founding generations, daring today’s voters to show their own courage at the ballot box.
California: On the Edge of American History is written from the perspective of Spanish American history as much as United States History. I really believe Ronald Genini has been waiting his entire adult life, to write this book. I can even understand the frustration that I imagine Mr. Genini must have felt at times, as he found himself sidelined from his long planned writing project at retirement. Health issues have a way of altering plans, priorities, and schedules. That good, old-fashioned grit, however, has a way of opening up new paths. I believe we all win with Mr. Genini’s persistence.
California’s history, topography, and natural resources are explored by regional sections. Twenty chapters contain facts, statistics, lists, tidbits of stories, sketches of characters, brief mentions of diary entries, more than a few opinions, a lot of interesting history, and a bit of the tedious, such as numbered propositions for the California readers. There are more than 600 pages. I can’t help but think that those 600 pages could have been split between two books: One to focus on Spain’s expansion to the American continent, the Spanish missions in California during the American Revolution, the Russian presence on the west coast, and the beginning of trade with the United States; the second book focusing more directly on answering the given questions regarding California’s successful economy and economic stability, while strengthening the proof behind the thesis.
I have a few problems in accepting all of the included characters and stories as the best representation of building California’s infrastructure and economy through pluck and nerve. My biggest problem is in including murderers who contributed nothing but news stories to collective memories. I also thought it was odd that citizens serving as first responders, civil servants, or 20th century military were not included among those represented. The plight of the minorities performing the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs of creating California’s infrastructure shows pluck. But that bravery doesn’t always extend upward to the people claiming the profits and glory. They often risked money or reputation, but not their lives. It is pretty sad that these bravest, most sacrificing workers were often considered disposable after the work was completed. History is history, pretty or not.
What I appreciate most about the book is the quantity of interesting characters and events that leads the imagination in so many directions and I appreciate the fine bibliography and the care in which it was organized. I keep picturing the book as a treasure for any writer needing inspiration for writing projects, for history enthusiasts looking for inspiration for research projects, and for students looking for information, detail, or resources. I also appreciate that I learned quite a bit from the book. I found it interesting that California missions were trading with Russian’s just up the coast so early in the 19th century. Lewis and Clark weren’t alone on that coastline at all! It surprised me!
I rate Ronald Genini’s, California: On the Edge of American History, 3 out of 4 stars. The book offers a lot of information, but it starts out slow. Not all readers will work through the first 15% of the book to discover that the pace quickens eventually. Adding in a few shorter sentences would have helped quite a bit. The author does include a disclaimer that opinions are included. I am glad he is honest about that. I do hope, however, that he listens to other opinions with the same passion as he offers his.
If political debate or mention of propositions and amendments send your blood pressure skyrocketing, I advise you to pass on this book. Overall, it is a very good book. My suggestion to the reader is to include Ronald Genini’s, California: On the Edge of American History among your reading selections and seek additional, independent perspectives on cultural, political, and scientific fact and histories as well.
California: On the Edge of American History
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon