Kevin Starr

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Kevin Starr

Kevin Owen Starr (September 3, 1940 – January 14, 2017) was an American historian and librarian, best known for his multi-volume series on the history of California, collectively called "Americans and the California Dream."


Kevin Starr was born in San Francisco, and was a fourth generation San Franciscan. Starr's parents divorced when he was a young child. His mother then had a nervous breakdown and Starr and his brother were sent to live at an orphanage in Ukiah when Starr was 6 years old. After he and his brother were reunited with their mother, they lived in a public housing project on Potrero Hill while she was on welfare. He attended St. Boniface School in the Tenderloin neighborhood.[1]

He later attended the University of San Francisco, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1962. After graduation he served for two years as a lieutenant in a tank battalion in Germany (the 68th Armored Brigade of the U.S. Army, in what was then West Germany). Upon release from the service, Starr entered Harvard University where he earned an MA degree in 1965 and a PhD in 1969 in American Literature.[2] He taught American Literature[citation needed] until 1973, and then moved to California where he has lived since 1974. He received a Masters in Library Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974 while he was San Francisco City Librarian. From 1974 to 1989 he was professor or visiting lecturer at numerous California universities, including UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, Santa Clara University, the University of San Francisco, and Stanford University. He was also a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.[1]

In 1989 Starr became Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Southern California, and was promoted to University Professor of History in 1998.[3] Starr sometimes taught at the USC State Capital Center in Sacramento, California.[4]

Starr served as California State Librarian from 1994 to April 1, 2004, when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger named him State Librarian Emeritus.[2] Starr is the author of the ongoing multi-volume history of California collectively entitled "Americans and the California Dream". The first volume in the series, "Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915" was published in 1973. His most recent volume, which covers the period from 1950 to 1963, entitled "Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance" won the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for history.[5]

In 2006, Starr was made a member of the College of Fellows of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.

In November 2006 he was awarded a National Humanities Medal.[6] On July 7, 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver announced that Starr would be a 2010 inductee of the California Hall of Fame; the induction ceremony was held on December 14, 2010 at The California Museum. He was presented with The Robert Kirsch Award by the Los Angeles Times as part of the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes.[7]

Composer John Adams was inspired by the "Dream" series of books to write the piece City Noir in 2009.[8]

Starr died of a heart attack in San Francisco on January 14, 2017.[1]



  1. ^ a b c Zahniser, David; Hamilton, Matt (January 15, 2017). "Author of California histories and former State Librarian Kevin Starr dies at 76". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 15, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Biographical Sketch:Kevin Starr State Librarian Emeritus". California State Library web site. 2007. Retrieved May 26, 2010.  (Full CV in PDF format from October 2003)
  3. ^ "Kevin Owen Starr: University Professor and Professor of History". Faculty profiles. University of Southern California. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ "SPPD Affiliated Faculty". USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development web site. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  5. ^ "2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalists". Los Angeles Times. April 2010. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Winners of the National Humanities Medal and the Charles Frankel Prize". National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  7. ^ Staff writer (April 19, 2013). "Announcing the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize winners". LA Times. Retrieved April 21, 2013. 
  8. ^ John Adams (2009). "City Noir". Adams' web site. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 

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