Steinbeck Center workers follow in the footsteps of the Joad family

Staff members from California's Steinbeck Center are currently traveling from Oklahoma to California, mirroring the journey of the main characters of John Steinbeck's novel 'The Grapes of Wrath.'

'The Grapes of Wrath' celebrates its 75th anniversary next year.

What better way to honor John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath” than to retrace the path taken by the Joad family in his book?

Some of the workers at the National Steinbeck Center, based in Salinas, Calif., are currently in the midst of a 10-day road trip from Sallisaw, Okla., to Arvin, Calif. – the same trip taken by the Joads, the family at the center of Steinbeck's novel. During the trip, the center staff plan to interview people daily. 

The trip is intended to honor the 75th anniversary of “The Grapes of Wrath,” a milestone which will be celebrated next year.

“Very few works of American literature have inspired social change to the degree that The Grapes of Wrath did," Colleen Bailey, executive director of the National Steinbeck Center, told the Salinas newspaper The Californian. "The National Steinbeck Center hopes to inspire a new generation to read John Steinbeck's work, to understand its relevance, and to take social action to improve the lives of others.”

The center staff will aim to answer the questions “What keeps you going?,” “What do you turn to in hard times?,” and “What brings you joy when times are tough?” during the journey.

The group left on Oct. 4 and is scheduled to finish the trip on Oct. 14. On the journey, they’ll also be organizing meetings to discuss “The Grapes of Wrath” and delivering talks on the time period in which the novel is set.

Answers to the three questions the group posed as they traveled will be displayed at the center next April.

The center is also encouraging others to get involved in the anniversary celebrations with activities on their website, such as a contest in which participants are asked to relate a story of how they got through a tough time. The winner will receive an iPad mini. Another option for those wanting to get involved is the Community Conversation in a Box kit on the center’s site, which gives readers instructions on how to organize a “Grapes of Wrath” talk in their own areas. Others can try the Map Your Story activity, in which participants are invited to show a map of where they live and talk about how the environment has affected them personally.

Check out the center website here.

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