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Francisco Jiménez (Santa Clara) collaborating with the National Steinbeck Center (Salinas)

Award: $40,000 Literary Arts Grant awarded in 2011

Project completed: 2012

The National Steinbeck Center collaborated with lead writer Francisco Jiménez, along with Jaime Cortez, and Wellington Lee—connecting them with one another and the Salinas community to create new works related to personal and family histories. Each writer’s story is relevant to the Salinas community. Francisco Jiménez’s books tell stories of migratory agricultural work and of his own pursuit of higher education. (Jiménez completed 100 pages of  a new memoir during the project period.) Writer and visual artist Jaime Cortez, who grew up in Watsonville, worked on a graphic novel telling the story of his father’s long and varied working life in Mexico and the United States. Wellington Lee’s family has lived in Salinas since 1908, where his grandfather was the unofficial mayor of Chinatown during the Tong Wars of the 1930s. Lee had recently returned to Salinas to write the stories of its Chinatown and completed 129 pages of his family memoir through this collaboration. The three writers also contributed to a blog tracing their projects’ development.

The National Steinbeck Center provided the writers with research assistance, and connected them to communities of common experience through workshops, small-group discussions, and storytelling. The mission of the National Steinbeck Center is to build community and celebrate creativity, inspired by the words of Salinas’ native son, Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck. It presents year-round literary and artistic programming.