Manhattanization of Oakland's Literary Scene

Oakland's long and illustrious literary tradition includes Ina Coolbrith, Jack London, Gertrude Stein, Floyd Salas, and many others. But is Oakland’s current literary scene truly a mirror reflection of Oakland, or is there a growing push by a conglomerate of literary moguls to “Manhattanize” Oakland’s literary culture?­ And is the result diversity—or tokenism?

JUDY JUANITA is a novelist, poet, playwright, and former member of the Black Panther Party. Her debut novel, Virgin Soul, is loosely based on those experiences.

TENNESSE REED has authored seven poetry collections, a memoir, and a novel. Tennessee has read her work throughout the Continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, and Japan. She is the secretary of PEN Oakland and the managing editor of Konch Magazine.

TONY R. RODRIGUEZ writes the column “San Francisco Literary Examiner” for He is a board member of PEN Oakland, a chapter of PEN Center USA, an affiliate of PEN International, and has authored five books, including Under These Stars

FLOYD SALAS is an award-winning author of seven books, including his Oakland-based memoir Buffalo Nickel. He was Regent’s Lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, staff writer for the NBC drama series, Kingpin, and recipient of the California Arts Council, Rockefeller Foundation, NEA, and Eugene F. Saxton fellowships, as well as the Joseph Henry Jackson Award.

AL YOUNG is a poet and novelist. In 2005, he was appointed the Poet Laureate of California. His work has been widely anthologized and translated into many languages. Among Young’s numerous honors and awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, and a Fulbright Fellowship.