Alumnus Mark Arax wins James Beard Media Award ahead of book release

Mark Arax - The Dreamt Land - Chasing water and dust across California

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Mark Arax will launch his national tour of “The Dreamt Land” with a reading and talk at the Veterans Memorial Building in Clovis at 7 p.m. on May 17. Tickets for the event, which will benefit the New Clovis Library, are available online. The cost is $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

“YEAH BABY!” read a text message that Mark Arax received from a friend on the evening of April 26. As a San Francisco Giants fan, Arax figured his friend was rubbing it in after the latest Los Angeles Dodgers win.

“It took another text to figure out that he was telling me I had won a Beard Award,” Arax said.

More specifically, he had earned the James Beard Media Award in the Best Feature Writing category for his 20,000-word story, “A Kingdom From Dust,” published in The California Sunday Magazine.

Widely considered the “Oscars” of the culinary world, Arax had been nominated in two categories; the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award being the other.

“It’s always nice when people in New York are reading a story about California — a complex story — one that doesn’t play to all the stereotypes that New Yorkers often have of California,” said Arax, a journalist and author. “It’s doubly nice when they read it, understand it and decide to honor it.”

For Arax, the article and his upcoming book, “The Dreamt Land — Chasing Water and Dust Across California,” are intertwined. He explained that the magazine piece is a chapter in the book that will be released on May 21.

“Well, that story and the book are really about the creation of California,” Arax said. “When I embarked on “The Dreamt Land” in 2013, it started off as a story about drought. Then it became a story about flood, and then it became a story about the system we built — the Central Valley Project and the [California] State Water Project together — that were designed to tame those forces of nature, the extremes of nature. And that necessarily became a book about the creation of California. So I go back to pre-gold rush, and the gold rush, and I follow the making of this system.”

Arax has built his career around telling the stories of the Central Valley. The drive to chronicle this land began with a tragic, life-altering event when he was 15 years old.


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Fresno State College of Arts and Humanities Communication Specialist

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