Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920, Ray Bradbury wrote more than 500 short stories, several screenplays, and 11 novels, including The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951). Perhaps his most influential book, Fahrenheit 451 (1953) continues to sell more than 50,000 copies a year and is a selection of The Big Read. In 2004, Bradbury received the National Medal of Arts. He died in Los Angeles on June 5, 2012 at age 91.
Dana Gioia, the former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, is an acclaimed poet, critic, and literary anthologist. His third collection of poetry, Interrogations at Noon (2001), won the American Book Award. He has also written collections of essays, including Can Poetry Matter?: Essays on Poetry and American Culture (1992; 2002) and Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (2004).
Actor, director, and producer Ed Harris has starred in over 60 films, plays, and TV shows. He has been nominated for four Academy Awards for his performances in Apollo 13 (1995), The Truman Show (1998), The Hours (2002), and Pollock (2000), which was also his widely acclaimed directorial debut. His stage credits include Fool for Love, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Grapes of Wrath. Recent performances include roles in the play Wrecks, the HBO miniseries Empire Falls (2005), and the title role in Copying Beethoven (2006).
A third-generation Japanese-American, Lawson Fusao Inada was born in Fresno, California. In May 1942, his family joined over 1 million other Japanese-Americans in internment camps, where they were confined for the duration of World War II. The author of five books, including Legends from Camp (1992), he was appointed Oregon's fifth Poet Laureate in 2006. He has served as the Steinbeck Chair for the National Steinbeck Center.
Writer Jay Parini is a professor of English and creative writing at Middlebury College. In addition to John Steinbeck (1995), he has published biographies of William Faulkner and Robert Frost and collections of poetry. His novels include The Last Station (1990) and The Passages of H. M. (2010).
Bill Ramsey was born in Salinas, California, in 1932. His parents and their nine children left dust-bowl Texas in 1930 for California. Ramsey was the family's tenth child-the first born in California-and is now the half-owner and co-chairman of Mann Packing Company, Inc., a large fresh produce company in Salinas.
Richard Rodriguez may be best known for his memoirs, a trilogy on U.S. public life: Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriquez (1982), Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father (1992), and Brown: The Last Discovery of America (2002). For more than ten years, Rodriguez appeared as an essayist on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Susan Shillinglaw is a professor of English at San José State University and Scholar-in-Residence at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. For eighteen years, she was Director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies and editor of the journal Steinbeck Studies. She has published widely on Steinbeck, including A Journey into Steinbeck's California (2006).
One of California's leading historians, Kevin Starr teaches history at the University of Southern California. He served as the State Librarian of California from 1994 to 2004. He is best known for his multi-volume history series, collectively called Americans and the California Dream (1973-2003). He is also the author of California: A History (2005).
Thom Steinbeck began his career in the 1960s as a photojournalist in Vietnam. He has written screenplays and documentaries, as well as adaptations of the work of his father, John Steinbeck. He is active on the boards of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas and the Center for Steinbeck Studies in San José. In 2002, he published his first collection of stories, Down to a Soundless Sea. His novels include In the Shadow of the Cypress (2010) and The Silver Lotus (2011).
Susan Straight is a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. Her many novels include the National Book Award finalist Highwire Moon (2001) and Take One Candle, Light a Room (2010). Straight's fiction and essays have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times, and Salon.com, among others.
Rick Wartzman is director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. Before that, he edited the Los Angeles Times' magazine, West. With Mark Arax, Wartzman wrote the award-winning social history The King of California: J. G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire (2003). He is currently at work on a book titled Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath", set for publication by PublicAffairs in 2008.