Oakland Nonfiction

More Oakland Stories

A few months ago I highlighted fiction set in Oakland.  Several readers suggested I do another posting featuring Oakland nonfiction, so here it is!  Oakland is home to many talented writers of both fiction and nonfiction.  I've listed a sampling of nonfiction titles here.  Have a favorite nonfiction Oakland book that you don't see listed here?  Add it to the list and share your experience of reading the book.                                         

Blues City     The Lost Daughter     Eye From the Edge     The Promise

Oaland      The Story of a City     Lying Down with Lions     Black Panther Party Service to the People Programs

Oakland Rhapsody    Historic Photos of Oakland     Oakland A Photographic Journey     East Bay Then and Now

  Renegade for Peace and Justice                    The Spirit of Oakland                   Farm City

Blues city : a walk in Oakland / Ishmael Reed
Ishamael Reed, one of our most brilliant essayists, takes us on a tour of Oakland, exploring its fascinating history, its beautiful hills and waterfronts, and its odd cultural juxtapositions.  He takes us into a year in the life of this amazing city, to black cowboy parades and Indian powwows, to Black Panther reunions and Gay Pride concerts, to a Japanese jazz club where a Lakota musician plays Coltrane's "Naima." -From Publisher's Description

The lost daughter / Mary Williams
The adopted daughter of Jane Fonda recounts her tumultuous youth in Oakland during the 1970s and how the stable home environment the actress provided helped her to reconnect with her biological family.

Eye from the edge : a memoir of West Oakland / Ruben Llamas; [edited by] Terry Burke Maxwell
Eye from the Edge brings you to an American melting pot with sizzle and swing.  In the wartime 1940s the Oakland Port waved farewell to soldiers and sailors and welcomed laborers for the rail yards and the shipyards located at the edge of our North American continent.  Streetcars, motorcycles, city slickers and shoppers mix with music and aromas while a group of boys cycle along the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Read about this multiculture-rich neighborhood; dance the salsa and swing; meet Pedro Infante, or Guadalupe Carlos in La Ideal Music Shop on Seventh Street.  See the big hearts of boxers like Carl Bobo Olson and the early church leaders like Father Phillipps at St. Mary's. -From Publisher's Description

The promise : how one woman made good on her extraordinary pact to send a classroom of first graders to college / Oral Lee Brown with Caille Millner
In 1987, a chance encounter with a young girl who asked her for money led to Oral Lee Brown making a promise to pay for the college education of a classroom of first grade students.  Although she made $45,000 a year at the time, Ms. Brown began saving and investing $10,000 of her own money each year to establish the Oral Lee Brown Foundation.  Not only did she live up to her promise, she made the same promise to three more classes.  This book tells the story of the realationship Ms. Brown developed with the children and her commitment to help them toward a better life.

Oakland / Annalee Allen
Part of the History Postcard Series, Allen's book captures Oakland's history from the 1850s through the 1950 as depicted in postcards.  Catch a glimpse of early Oakland during the administration of mayors Frank Mott, a proponent of the "City Beautiful Movement," and John L. Davie.  

Oakland, the story of a city / Beth Bagwell ; second edition
with an afterword by Erika Mailman

The second edition of Bagwell's book, first published in 1982, traces the early history of Oakland, including the history of the native people who first lived here until the present.  Erika Mailman, historical novelist and 12-year history columnist for The Montclarian, provides an afterward in which she captures recent events and developments in the City. 

Lying down with the lions : a public life from the streets of Oakland to the halls of power / Ronald V. Dellums and H. Lee Halterman
When Ronald Dellums arrived in Washington in 1971 to represent Oakland, California, in the House of Representatives, his radical activism had already earned him a place on Nixon's enemy list.  When he retired in 1998-his radicalism still intact-he left a record of accomplishment that has made an indelible mark on our political landscape  This book chronicles Dellums's years in the House, and offers crucial lessons for Americans committed to democratic social change.  -From Publisher's Description

The Black Panther Party : service to the people programs / the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation ; edited and with an afterword by David Hilliard; foreword by Cornel West
This book represents Black Panther Party members' coordinated responses over the last four decades to the failure of city, state, and federal bureaucrats to address the basic needs of their respective communities.  The Party poineered free social service programs that are now in the mainstream of American life.
-From Publisher's Description

Oakland rhapsody : the secret soul of an American downtown/photographs by Richard Nagler ; introduction and text by Ishmael Reed
Nagler's photographs, accompanied by Reed's text, offer a contemporary view of Oakland.  In Nagler's words, "The photographs in this book are rhapsodic in the sense that they were taken with the desire to convey the vibrant melodies and rhythms of life on the street in downtown Oakland."

Historic photos of Oakland / text and captions by Steven Lavoie
This book is the work of OPL librarian Steve Lavoie.  His photos capture glimpses into the ways in which Oakland has adapted to change and in experiments in social, scientific and cultural innovation to sustain itself as a charming and welcoming gateway to the Pacific.  -From Publisher's Description

Oakland : a photographic journey / Bill Caldwell
This collection of "then and now" photographs, many chosen from the Oakland History room's collection, captures 150 years of Oakland history.  The timeline at the beginning of the books was originally compiled by Oakland History Room librarians and summarizes the history of Oakland from 1,200 B.C. to 2002, when the book was published.

East Bay then & now / Dennis Evanosky and Eric J. Kos
This book traces the ensuing explosion of business and population through fascinating archival photographs placed side by side with matching contemporary views.  Historic sites pictured include the San Jose Mission, the San Leandro Courthouse, the Lake Merritt Boat House, and Berkeley City Hall.  -From Publisher's Description

Renegade for peace and justice : Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks for me / Barbara Lee
Barbara Lee writes about her personal and political life from growing up in Texas through her years in Oakland with the Black Panther Party and her work in the United States Congress.  She also covers the many pieces of legislation and policies she has worked on to help promote international peace.

Farm city : the education of an urban farmer / Novella Carpenter
For anyone who has ever grown herbs on their windowsill, tomoatoes on their fire escape, or obsessed over the offerings at the local farmer's market, Carpenter's story will capture your heart.  And if you've ever considered leaving it all behind to become a farmer outside the city limits, or looked at an abandoned lot next door with a gleam in your eye, consider this both a cautionary tale and a full-throated call to action.  -From Publisher's Description

The spirit of Oakland : an anthology/Abby Wasserman, editor; Diane Curry, photo editor;[contributors: Michael Dobrin ... et al.]
Organized thematically and moving backward and forward in time, this book is an exceptionally colorful and comprehensive popular history of Oakland as experienced by 16 different authors. -From Publisher's Description

In addition to the titles listed above, there are also many books about Oakland neighborhoods and communities in the Images of America Series.  Titles include Oakland's Chinatown / William Wong, Black artists in Oakland / Jerry Thompson and Duane Deterville, andThe Pullman porters and West Oakland / Thomas and Wilma Tramble, among many others.  And remember, you can always visit OPL's Oakland History room for an introduction to all things Oakland.

Posted by Rebekah Eppley on 11/22/13, Dimond Branch