erikarobuckSteinbeck is the voice of a time and place that previously had no voice. From animal-like migrant working conditions, to family stories of drama, evolution, and generational redemption, Steinbeck presents an unflinching look at the sins of society against the underprivileged, but always offers a glimmer of hope. His writing is bold and forces the reader to confront harsh truths, but the antidote is never far, and often comes in unexpected ways.

The ending of The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most powerful ever rendered—when a young woman who has lost her baby feeds a starving man from her breast. It is the very image of self-sacrifice, human growth, and the capacity for nurturing we hold; a fitting ending to a novel of raw humanity.

May Steinbeck’s work and his voice always endure.

Erika Robuck is the critically acclaimed author of Hemingway’s GirlCall Me Zelda and Fallen Beauty.  Born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Erika was inspired by the cobblestones, old churches, and the mingling of past and present of the Eastern Shore.  Erika writes about and reviews historical fiction.  For more information please visit www.erikarobuck.com, and Twitter @ErikaRobuck.


JoGrapeshn Steinbeck was born and raised in Salinas, a small city in the central coast of California known as the Salad Bowl of the World.  In the midst of the incredible natural beauty of the Salinas Valley, there were incredible stories of struggle and resilience that were to inspire his best work.  Nearly one hundred years later, it was through Steinbeck’s characters that I first glimpsed into the lives of the field workers that I saw everyday working in the fields from sun up to sun down in my hometown of Salinas.  It was through Ma Joad that I learned to recognize stoicism in the eyes of a mother who stood in line at the grocery store, with children clinging to her skirt while she counted her money, hoping it was enough to buy the small number of items in her basket.  Through Tom I understood the quiet rage of the young men who challenged one another with hand gestures on the downtown streets.  Because of The Grapes of Wrath I developed empathy for the people I lived among but hardly knew.  And so many years later, John Steinbeck’s work inspires me still.  My life’s work is now to advance John Steinbeck’s legacy, and to champion the causes he championed in his time.  Today, the National Steinbeck Center celebrates our common humanity by giving voice to the stories of Steinbeck’s people through the work of contemporary artists, writers and, social change agents.

Colleen Bailey
Executive Director
The National Steinbeck Center