Edie Meidav, author of Lola, California, which is nominated for a Northern California Book Award

By Karen Laws

The East Bay Literary scene is heating up. Never before in the 31-year history of the Northern California Book Awards have the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement, plus ten nominations for book awards, all been given to East Bay writers.

The authors who have been nominated represent a wide range of disciplines, expertise, and artistic talent. They include: Barry Eichengreen, Adam Hochschild, Andrea Lingenfelter, Mary Mackey, Edie Meidav, Sandra Gilbert, David Meltzer, Michael Pollan (Fred Cody Award Winner), Amy Reed, and Katherine Silver.

Each week, from now until the June 10 Awards Ceremony, Berkeleyside will spotlight one of these writers.

When we asked Edie Meidav to talk about how living in Berkeley has impacted her work, she mentioned that one of the main characters in her novel Lola, California began to take shape during an event at Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. (Founded by Fred and Pat Cody, the iconic book store operated on Telegraph from 1960 to 2006.) “Norman O. Brown was reading,” said Meidav. “Naked women sat up-front and center in the audience on metal folding chairs, just waiting to hear him. This image from 1991 stayed with me for years, and became the first glimmers of the character Vic Mahler.”

Meidav’s family moved to Berkeley when she was eight, and as a teenager she loved hanging out at Cody’s. “I loved those walls of books, so high and endless, packed with possibility.” All the books were “curatorially chosen,” adds Meidav, coining a word to get her point across. More recently, Meidav was teaching Cuban literature at Bard College and had some Berkeley High School graduates in her class.

“I can usually recognize the Berkeley kids within five minutes. They have this air of really, really earnestly wanting to respect different perspectives.” Meidav’s daughters, aged nine and four, will go to Fairyland Camp in Oakland this summer. If the girls are lucky, maybe Mom will introduce them to one of her favorite childhood pastimes: roller skating in the halls of the university.

“Lola, California” covers “the bustling intellectual and cultural intensity of Berkeley”
“Lola, California” covers “the bustling intellectual and cultural intensity of Berkeley”

Lola, California hopscotches through time as well as place. Many key scenes occur in the eighties, when two Berkeley teenagers who dub themselves “the Lolas” (yes, inspired by the Kinks song) form an intense and dangerous friendship.

Novelist and Northern California Book Reviewers member Steven Simmons finds that, “Meidav gets the bustling intellectual and cultural intensity of Berkeley; the oddly exhilarating anomie of Los Angeles; the physical and psychological terror at the pot farms in Mendocino; and the sensory pleasures as well as the spiritual delusions of a neo-hippie retreat … She digs deeply and painfully into the changing relationships over three decades of husband and wife, parents and children, and friends.”

Among these are “Meidav’s most original creations, the two Lolas: the angry, troubled eighties wild child and her complex and ambivalent protector.” Lola, California is one of five finalists in the Fiction category. All nominated books were published in 2011 and are by Northern California authors.

The authors will appear at the Northern California Book Awards Ceremony, Book Signing, and Reception 1:00-4:00 pm, Sunday June 10 at San Francisco Main Library Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin Street. Sedge Thomson from “West Coast Live” will emcee, and it’s all free to the public.

The Northern California Book Awards are presented by Northern California Book Reviewers, Poetry Flash, Center for the Art of Translation, Red Room, PEN West, Mechanics’ Institute, San Francisco Public Library, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, and Readers Bookstore at the Main. For more information visit Poetryflash. View a complete list of nominees.

New book revisits childhood in post-60s, buzz-kill Berkeley [07.27.11]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

Freelance writers with story pitches can email editors@berkeleyside.com.