Monday, January 16, 2017

Kevin Starr, Author of California Histories and Former State Librarian, Dies at 76

Kevin Starr, author of California histories and former state librarian, dies at 76
L A Times: 1.15.2017 by David Zahniser and Matt Hamilton

Kevin Starr entered this world in 1940 in a rare fraternity — a fourth-generation Californian whose family's roots dated back to the Gold Rush era.

After a rough-and-tumble childhood in San Francisco, he found himself a graduate student at Harvard University, where he perused Widener Library's vast collection for  books about California. He realized something was missing.

“I thought, ‘There's all kinds of wonderful books on California, but they don't seem to have the point of view we're encouraged to look at — the social drama of the imagination,’” Starr told The Times.

Filling this gap would become his life's work, making him the state's foremost historian and one of its most revered public intellectuals. For half a century, he chronicled the greed, cruelty, enlightenment, innovation, vanity and sacrifice that took California from a place of Native American hamlets through Spanish colonization, entry into the United States and growth into a diverse powerhouse of technology, culture and trade.

Starr, a professor at USC and the former California state librarian, died of a heart attack Saturday at a hospital in San Francisco, according to his wife of 53 years, Sheila Starr. He was 76.

Starr captured the state’s rise in influence, and its singular hold on the public imagination, in “Americans and the California Dream,” a sweeping book series that moves from the Gold Rush into the Progressive Era, the 1920s, the Great Depression and other distinct chapters of California’s past.

Throughout his work, Starr celebrated the state’s creativity and its openness to new ideas. And he demonstrated a familiarity with a vast range of topics central to the state’s development and its image of itself: architecture, agriculture, literature, water infrastructure and the entertainment industry, among others.

“He was the greatest historian Los Angeles and California ever had and ever will have,” said former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who hosts a book club that counted Starr as one of its original members.  READ MORE @

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