Why Berkeley? On Monday July 20 at 7 p.m. at the new Books Inc. on Shattuck Avenue a group of people who should know will answer just that question. Photo: Daniel Parks

The Berkeley that Malcolm Margolin settled in in 1970 is different than the Berkeley that exists today. That was a time when people were going back to the land, discovering the power of nature and protesting the Vietnam War.

Berkeley in 2015 is a city on the move. You can barely drive down a street without being slowed by construction cranes. Start-ups, not communes, are the focus of most young people’s attention. A protest in People’s Park draws yawns.

Margolin, the executive director of Berkeley book publisher Heyday, has been thinking a lot about the values that brought him to Berkeley and the values that flourish today. To explore the question, “Why Berkeley?” he is hosting a discussion at Books, Inc. on Shattuck Avenue on Monday July 20. It is part of a series of events celebrating the bookstore’s recent move.

The evening will bring together “a dozen voices of Berkeley to discuss what they valued about Berkeley that brought them there and what we need to do in the future to preserve these values.”

Margolin remembered his early impressions of Berkeley in his award-winning oral history, The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher. He and his wife, Rina, had left New York City to wander around the world, and they drove across the country and down to Mexico in a VW van. Rina Margolin was pregnant with their son, Reuben, when they made the decision to stop in Berkeley. Margolin was 30 and thought he would probably move on. He has now lived here for 45 years.

Malcolm Margolin hiking near Lake Tahoe. Photo by Frances Dinkelspiel
Malcolm Margolin hiking near Lake Tahoe recently. Photo by Frances Dinkelspiel

“We chose Berkeley largely because I had college friends in Berkeley,” wrote Margolin. “On an earlier trip I had visited David Nawi, a friend from Harvard, who lived here. I remember walking up into the hills after being somewhere on Telegraph Avenue, walking up into Tilden Park, and seeing deer and hawks. I thought it was kind of nice. I thought the view was okay, and the privilege or walking up into the hills was okay, too. This was not grandeur, like the Rockies, the Sierra. Pike’s Peak, or the Olympic Peninsula. But Berkeley was a place to settle in for a while, a place of convenience. It had a library, places you could walk to. I figured we would stay for a few months and probably keep wandering…. I didn’t fall in love with Berkeley right away.”

The speakers who will talk about “Why Berkeley?” include politicians, reporters, authors, poets, historians, environmental activists, artists, and actors.

They include:

  • Tom Bates (Mayor)
  • Loni Hancock (State senator)
  • Gray Brechin, cultural activist and author of Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin.
  • Kenneth Brower, environmental activist and author of Hetch Hetchy: Undoing a Great American Mistake.
  • Tom Dalzell, creator of the website Quirky Berkeley.
  • Frances Dinkelspiel, co-founder of Berkeleyside and author of Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, and the forthcoming book Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California (Available Oct. 6, 2015).
  • David Goines, author, graphic artist, printer, and illustrator of several books including Chez Panisse Café Cookbook.
  • Robert Hass, poet, essayist, and co-founder of River of Words.
  • Archana Horsting, founder and executive director of Kala Institute.
  • John King, urban design critic and author of Cityscapes: San Francisco and its Buildings and the forthcoming Cityscapes 2: Reading the Architecture of San Francisco (Available Sept. 1, 2015).
  • Earll Kingston, actor.
  • Maxine Hong Kingston, peace activist and author of The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts.
  • Linda Maio, Vice Mayor of Berkeley.
  • Vincent Medina, Ohlone Indian and language activist.
  • Ishmael Reed, cultural organizer and author of Going Too Far: Essays about America’s Nervous Breakdown.
  • Al Young, poet, essayist, novelist, screenwriter, and professor

The Why Berkeley? event takes place on Monday July 20 at 7 p.m. at Books Inc. at 1491 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Visit Books Inc. website for full details.

Books, Inc. opens in north Berkeley after crosstown move (06.08.15)
Bookstore moving into old Black Oak Books in North Berkeley (10.15.14)

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