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Orange County: A Literary Field Guide

The Costa Mesa Historical Society is pleased to have editors Lisa Alvarez and Andrew Tonkovich  on Sunday October 22, 2017 as they discuss their landmark anthology and read selections from the book, Orange County: A Literary Field Guide.

Even by California’s standards, the County of Orange teems with abundance: in sweeping topography along the azure Pacific, in sprawling suburbs, in promises of prosperity, and in its self-perpetuated reputation as a citrus-lined paradise. But the acclaimed fertility of this corner of California is not just agricultural or economic, as this new anthology shows. In this literary field guide, more than sixty writers —some well known, others emerging—lead readers on a tour that begins at the coast and heads inland over the Santa Ana Mountains, through the canyons, and into the cities of Anaheim, Irvine, and Orange in search of vistas of truth. Luminaries including Michael Chabon, Philip K. Dick, Steve Martin, and Susan Straight explore the complexities and contradictions of the county, locating readers in a place made in equal measure by 950 square miles of land and the imagination. A foreword by Gustavo Arellano, author of Orange County: A Personal History and the syndicated column ˇAsk a Mexican!, unravels the idealized past and paradoxical present of this much-mythologized locale 

To quote from the Daily Pilot article of March 31, 2017:

When Lisa Alvarez would tell people that she was editing an anthology of poems, novels and short stories about Orange County, she often got puzzled looks."The initial response is, 'There's nothing here,'" she said. "People think about the popular culture images of Orange County, the desperate 'Housewives,' the terrible Laguna Beach TV show, and they don't think of it as a place with a history. My project showed me that indeed there was a history.""Now anyone can get a glimpse into this history with "Orange County: A Literary Field Guide," edited by Alvarez, a professor of English at Irvine Valley College (and co-director of Writers Workshops), and her husband, Andrew Tonkovich, an English lecturer at UC Irvine (and host of KPFK show Bibliocracy Radio). 

So come bring a friend and join us on a literary history of the OC!

Seating is limited, for RESERVATIONS call (949) 631-5918.    Doors open at 2:00, program at 2:30. Free admission and refreshments. We are located at 1870 Anaheim Ave. northwest corner of the Lions Park complex. Visit   or go to facebook/costa mesa historical society for more information. 

Note: Due to construction, entry to parking lot must be made off Anaheim Ave.  


Important information on how to access our parking lot:

We wanted you to be among the first to be aware that the Historical Society has released its second book on Costa Mesa History, covering the years 1940-2003.  The book tells the story of Costa Mesa’s growth from infancy to its coming of age.
The book is available at the Costa Mesa Historical Society, 1870 Anaheim Ave, 949-631-5918,
From the back Cover: Perhaps no one could have foreseen the amazing transformation of Costa Mesa from a sleepy rancho to today’s bustling “City of the Arts.”  Along with other Orange County cities, Costa Mesa experienced explosive growth, redevelopment, county bankruptcy, traffic, and environmental issues.  While navigating these events, Costa Mesa emerged with its own brand of Southern California cityhood


Give the gift of history and help support the CMHS at the same time!

Lots of books and memorabilia to select from including commemorative plates, paperweights and SAAAB items, note paper, postcards and out of print items.

And we have many historic photos to choose from for your home, office or gift! 


"Costa Mesa My Sweet Home" video


Also still available is our first book Early Costa Mesa: more info

The Costa Mesa Historical Society welcomes you to its online home.  The Society is an all-volunteer, non-profit group whose mission is to collect, preserve and promote the history of the Costa Mesa area.

We encourage anyone interested in Costa Mesa history to explore our website.  Also, we extend an open invitation to interested individuals, families, students, professionals, businesses and organizations to become members of the Society.

This website contains but a tiny sampling of the many resources available to you.  Please contact us should you need more information.



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