Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creating an Orange Utopia: Review and Giveaway

If you savor the sweetness of California navel oranges (look Ma, no seeds!), you have Eliza Lovell Tibbets to thank.


A casual conversation with her granddaughter, Eleanor, led Patricia Ortlieb (my lovely stepmother-in-law) on a quest that would change her life in a profound way, and which should also change the presentation of California history. While working on a fourth-grade project, Eleanor asked Patricia about Eliza Lovell Tibbets' role in CA history, and Patricia started researching the life of her great-great grandmother with a new zeal and purpose. Eleanor's inquiry led to this highly-readable, informative book, and with the help of writer Peter Economy, Patricia became the author of Creating an Orange Utopia: Eliza Lovell Tibbets and the Birth of California's Citrus Industry, published in September of 2011.

Well-written and thoroughly researched (Patricia visited many of the places where Eliza had lived, and uncovered numerous official records and documents, as well as personal correspondence), this is a wonderful book for students and others interested in learning about the beginnings of the citrus industry in Riverside, CA, and about a great woman who was an ardent American Spiritualist and abolitionist. Creating an Orange Utopia pays tribute to a very important person in California history, especially with regard to Riverside and surrounding areas, Eliza Tibbets (1825 - 1898).

In 1873, Eliza Tibbets brought the first seedless navel orange trees, originally from Bahia, Brazil to Riverside, CA, and fostered the beginning of California's citrus industry. Given two young saplings from a friend at the United States Department of Agriculture, Eliza cared for the trees, watering them with leftover dishwater, as irrigation was not yet available. From this very humble, uncertain beginning, the trees flourished, the citrus industry grew tremendously, and soon Eliza became known as "the mother" of this industry.

"Once the navel orange was introduced to Riverside, the acreage devoted to the fruit expanded rapidly. In 1880, Tom Cover alone reported having budded seven hundred trees to the navel orange. Between 1880 and 1893, California's acreage devoted to navel orange production exploded from three thousand to more than forty thousand acres. "
~Creating an Orange Utopia, Patricia Ortlieb and Peter Economy

Patricia took on the task of researching Eliza's life in depth--I appreciate all the years of hard work and research that went into Creating and Orange Utopia--and the result is a book that's educational and a pleasure to read. What makes the book especially involving and intelligent are the bits of personal correspondence woven seamlessly into the book. It's difficult to ascertain events from the past, but through the use of letters and records the authors do a terrific job, and I was able to get a good sense of this pioneer. (I'd love to see a movie made about her life, using this book as a basis.) The book also includes some black and white photos of Eliza and family members.

It's time that Eliza Tibbets is recognized for her great contribution to CA history (women are so often overlooked or ignored altogether in history; we are not seen as contributing in any real sense; we are not explorers nor inventors nor conquerors nor kings). But, in the case of Eliza Tibbets, due to her desire to find a marketable crop for her family and Riverside, due to her vision and diligence, and due also to her "feminine" ability to nurture living things--in this case little tree saplings--she altered the course of history in a positive and lucrative manner. Navel oranges brought great wealth to Riverside, and the citrus industry expanded into new towns such as Redlands, Tustin, Corona, and Pomona, dramatically changing the landscape and the course of CA history. Creating an Orange Utopia is the first book I know of about the life of Eliza Tibbets, and I'm thrilled to offer a copy of this book as a giveaway at the conclusion of this post.

In addition to writing this book, Patricia has also highlighted the contribution of Eliza Tibbets in other ways.

Patricia is a talented artist. Here, she's pictured with the giant orange she painted to commemorate her great-great grandmother, called Eliza's Journey. This brilliantly-colored orange was part of a larger exhibition in 2006 of 32 oranges painted by various artists, and is on permanent display outside of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum in Southern CA.

Patricia helped bring an 11-foot bronze statue of Eliza Tibbets, Sower's Dream by artist Guy Angelo Wilson, to downtown Riverside, near to the elegant and historic Mission Inn in August 2011, the first public sculpture honoring a woman in Riverside.

In celebration of Eliza Tibbets and the publication of Creating an Orange Utopia, I'm having a giveaway for a copy of this book to a reader (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Enter by 5PM PDT on Monday, September 26. One winner will be randomly chosen and announced on Tuesday, September 27. Good luck, and thanks for reading!


  1. I would love to win this book!

    littleone AT shaw DOt ca

  2. GFC follower

    littleone AT shaw Dot Ca

  3. I had no inking that this story even existed, but you make it sound so wonderful and hard to ignore! I think it would be excellent to read this book and get a better picture of the woman behind the citrus industry, and I think this is an excellent review! I'd love to be entered in your giveaway, Suko, so please count me in!


  4. I used to live where there were orange groves everywhere. I would to read this book.


  5. How exciting that your step-mother-in-law has written a book. It sounds fascinating!

  6. That was a lovely review, and after reading it, it sounds so exciting. I think this book would be very interesting to read.

  7. I am a follower on GFC.

  8. I love the author's name, Patricia; it's my name and the mention of oranges brings back memories of my days in California.


  9. Here in the Philippines we eat seedless oranges also but they all come from China-this was very interesting and great to see a family connection-

  10. This sounds good.

    I'm a GFC follower.


  11. This sounds like a wonderful book! Thanks for hosting this giveaway!
    I'm a GFC follower.


  12. Beautiful post. Your step-mother-in-law is an amazing and talented woman. I never really thought about how the citrus industry was started. Sounds like a fascinating book.

    I'll post the giveaway in the sidebar on my blog.

  13. Leslie, thanks for posting this giveaway on your blog!

    Thanks for all the comments. More welcomed!

  14. What an interesting sounding book! I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it so much :)

  15. Thank you, Suko, for your very interesting post ! I'll remember Eliza Tibbets when byuing California navel oranges !

  16. This sounds informative and interesting! Great review Suko. I had no idea who Eliza Tibbets was before this. So Patricia is your stepmother-in-law? very cool!

  17. No need to enter me; just wanted to say it's so neat that your stepmother-in-law is now a published author! The book sounds like a good one, too.

  18. This sounds like a wonderful read! I would love to be entered. Thank you!

  19. I would love to win this book :) We can trace our family back to Eliza too! Thank you for the opportunity!


  20. Susan, this post was so informative. You SMIL seems like a talented woman. I'd love to find out more. Thanks for the giveaway.

    Bibliophilebythesea AT gmail DOT com

  21. Thanks for the awesome post. I have been reading a lot of non-fiction lately. It is great that your step-mom-in-law has finally highlighted and given recognition to Eliza Tibbets' great accomplishment.

  22. Guess I better get my entry in for this one!

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

  23. GFC follower!

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

    (Suko, I really appreciate your visits and comments to my blog. They always make my day!)

  24. I'm intrigued - what an interesting piece of history!!

  25. Really seedless oranges, I sure want to eat them too :) SOunds like a great and informative read :)

  26. Sounds like a winner, good luck all who enter your giveaway.


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