West of Eden: A CHOICE Review

West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California

by P. Harvey
September 2012

This excellent, unique collection comes via the joint efforts of a multidisciplinary team of scholars as well as first-person accounts of activists and others. Together, they provide a large variety of perspectives from the most removed and scholarly to the most personal and passionate regarding communal experiments (including everything from the late Berkeley Co-Op store to deep experiments in communal living around Mendocino) in an area rife with experimental forms of living in the 1960s and after. The result is a study of, meditation on, and defense of the role of communal experiments and utopian dreams in US history. The opening essay by Timothy Miller puts these stories in a long historical perspective, while a closing essay by Michael Watts discusses more broadly the international context of the events of the 1960s. Lee Worden considers how ideas borne in countercultural communes invaded the spaces of Silicon Valley, often with libertarian effects. Part II includes material on Native American activism at Alcatraz and on the Black Panthers, while Part III prints reminiscences of communes on the Mendocino coast. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

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