JoAnn Levy

JoAnn Levy

JoAnn Levy has been writing about women in the California gold rush ever since being surprised by the absence of the word "women" in the index of a book touted as the "all-encompassing record" of the event. It was 1981 and she wondered how "all-encompassing" the record could be if women weren't included. After diligently looking for a book about gold rush women, and not finding one, Levy spent nearly ten years searching diaries, reminiscences, newspapers, and letters for female participation in this nation's historic migration to California. In 1990, a respected scholarly press published Levy's first book, the one she wanted to read, THEY SAW THE ELEPHANT: WOMEN IN THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH. Paperback rights went to the University of Oklahoma Press, and the book has been in print for more than 25 years. While unearthing her subject, Levy found numerous women whose experiences she wanted to tell at length. After three years researching the Chinese in the gold rush, Levy wrote Ah Toy's story in her first historical novel, DAUGHTER OF JOY (Tor, 1998). Deciding that the "history pill" went down easier wrapped in a story, Levy wrote a second historical novel, FOR CALIFORNIA'S GOLD (University Press of Colorado, 2000). Both won the WILLA Award for Best Historical Novel. In 2004, a dual biography, UNSETTLING THE WEST: ELIZA FARNHAM AND GEORGIANA BRUCE KIRBY IN FRONTIER CALIFORNIA was published to critical acclaim. Next, literally closer to home, Levy published THE SUTTER CREEK CHRONICLES: A LOVE STORY. Never wandering far from the subject of women in the gold rush, Levy currently is completing a novel inspired by the unknown Indian woman who helped lead the Mariposa Battalion expedition that discovered Yosemite Valley.

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