A vivid, searching journey into California’s capture of water and soil – the epic story of a people’s defiance of nature and the wonders, and ruin, it has wrought
Mark Arax is from a family of Central Valley farmers, a writer with deep ties to the land who has watched the battles over water intensify even as California lurches from drought to flood and back again. In The Dreamt Land, he travels the state to explore the one-of-a-kind distribution system, built in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, that is straining to keep up with California’s relentless growth.
The Dreamt Land weaves reportage, history and memoir to confront the “Golden State” myth in riveting fashion. No other chronicler of the West has so deeply delved into the empires of agriculture that drink so much of the water. The nation’s biggest farmers – the nut king, grape king, and citrus queen – tell their story here for the first time.
Arax, the native son, is persistent and tough as he treks from desert to delta, mountain to valley. What he finds is hard-earned, awe-inspiring, tragic, and revelatory. In the end, his compassion for the land becomes an elegy to the dream that created California and now threatens to undo it.