Column: For some in Southern California, the term 'Okie' is still not OK

They flooded into California fleeing poverty in their homeland. The public denigrated them as dirty and crime-prone — a threat to the good life. Authorities harassed

the newcomers out of city limits, forcing thousands of families to crowd in enclaves and take low-paying jobs. And when even that couldn’t drive them away, law enforcement set up

blockades on the California border. This was the story of the Joads, the family at the center of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” I read it as a senior at Anaheim

High School, and it remains my favorite novel all these decades later. Its biblical allusions, sparse-but-beautiful prose, critique of uncaring capitalism and praise of a

proactive government makes it a multitiered masterpiece. But what speaks to me more than anything about “The Grapes of Wrath” is how the saga of the Joads so closely mirrors

that of my family. The resilience of Ma Joad, the idealism of Tom, the tragedy of Pa, the personal growth of Rose of Sharon — they were my Mexican-born parents, my aunts and

uncles, my native-born cousins, my siblings. The book has colored my idea of California ever since. Though it was fictional, Steinbeck based it on the real-life exodus of Dust

Bowl refugees, especially those from Oklahoma. California can be cruel to desperate people — yet only in California could the persecuted transform their hard times into dreams

they would've never found back home.