Fruit Fields in My Blood

The authors first began to work on the fruit run when they were in college. This is a chronicle of their experiences during the fourteen years they spent on the fruit run. They became addicted to the freedom of the migrant life and adapted to conditions that most people would consider oppressive. There are numerous photographs and quotations to enable the reader to understand pickers’ lives and their reasons for staying on the fruit run, despite the hardships.

During the Depression, many people from the drought-ravaged Midwest and Southwest came to California to harvest crops. They started in Southern California and moved north with the harvest, making enough money to last the rest of the year and wintering in a warmer area.

Contrary to popular beliefs, many Okies stayed on the fruit run because they enjoyed the work and felt a great deal of pride, despite the disdain of the rest of society and the availability of other work. Pickers often speak of the freedom of the migratory life and the fact that unlike other work it allows them to work side by side with their children and pass on their values.

Much of the book is devoted to depicting the lives of the fruit tramps. Sonneman moves from large to small, beginning with the development of migratory labor in the United States in the 1800’s. The volume also includes many photographs, taken by Steigmeyer, of individual pickers and their extended families.

Sonneman covers the hardships faced by pickers and the obstacles that are sometimes placed in their path. In general, pickers are very independent and resent government interference. Sonneman points out how some laws designed to improve the condition of pickers have actually hampered them.

FRUIT FIELDS IN MY BLOOD is a fascinating account of a dying way of life.