The San Francisco Chronicle had a review today of Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California.

The book, written by Elaine Elison and Stan Yogi, both of whom have worked for years with the ACLU, tells the story of the many struggles that have gripped California and how those battles have increased the rights of many.

What caught my attention – in addition to the book’s subject matter – was the fact that it was published by Heyday, a small but innovative press located on University Avenue in Berkeley. Started by Malcom Margolin in 1974 when he wrote The East Bay Out, an affectionate guide to the natural history of the hills and bayshore around Berkeley and Oakland, Heyday has grown into a cultural and political powerhouse. I don’t mean to overstate its importance – it still is a tiny publishing company – but Heyday’s non-profit status allows it to take risks that other traditional publishers cannot afford.


“Heyday Institute occupies a unique niche in the publishing world, specializing in books that foster an understanding of California history, literature, art, environment, social issues, and culture,” reads the mission statement on its website. “Our commitment is to enhance California’s rich cultural heritage by providing a platform for writers, poets, and other artists, scholars, and storytellers who help keep this diverse legacy alive.”

Margolin went on to write and publish The Ohlone Way, a book about the original Native Americans of the Bay Area. With his long white beard and round spectacles, Margolin is a frequent commentator for documentaries about California. Most recently, he was interviewed for KQED’s four-part series “Saving the Bay.”

There’s no way to list all the wonderful books Heyday has published, but its authors include Gerald Haslam, Andrew Lam, David Mas Masumoto, Tom Killion, and Gary Snyder and cover topics as diverse as the Port Chicago mutiny, the impact of car culture on California, the Japanese internment during World War II, Upton Sinclair, and women writers of early California.

If you are looking for an unusual Christmas present, consider a book from Heyday.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...