McKibben, Carol Lynn 1955-

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McKibben, Carol Lynn 1955-


Born October 24, 1955; children: one son. Education: University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 1999.




Writer, historian, and educator. Director of the Seaside History Project and the Monterey Bay Regional Oral History and Immigration Project, Monterey, CA. Previously taught history and international policy studies for twelve years at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Monterey; also taught courses at Monterey Community College and at Stanford University, Stanford, CA.


Beyond Cannery Row: Sicilian Women, Immigration, and Community in Monterey, California, 1915-99, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2006.


Carol Lynn McKibben is a writer and social historian whose idea for her first book came from an article she wrote about cannery workers for the Monterey County Herald. While researching the article, the author became aware that cannery workers were basically designated either Sicilians or merely as "others." It seemed odd to me that there was this clear separation, "the author told Jessica Lyons in an interview in the Monterey County Weekly, "[Sicilians] considered themselves different, but, more importantly, everyone else considered them different."

This discovery, along with an interest in her own heritage—McKibben's maternal grandparents were from Sicily—led her to write about Sicilian workers and their contributions to the Monterey area in California for her doctoral dissertation. Her findings are also in the book titled Beyond Cannery Row: Sicilian Women, Immigration, and Community in Monterey, California, 1915-99. "As a scholar," the author told Lyons, "the literature on immigration portrayed Italians as the less than successful immigrants, and Sicilians were even worse. I needed to feel I was contributing to the scholarly literature on Sicilian migration and its importance to Monterey's history."

In her book, the author focuses primarily on the unique role that Sicilian women played in maintaining community. Focusing on these women, their migration to the United States and California, and their efforts in the community, industry, and civic life at the turn of the twentieth century, the author analyzes gender and gender roles, showing that it was the women in the local community who had the insight and power to respond and make sure their families prospered in changing economic conditions. For example, the male Sicilians who settled in Monterey made their living in the fishing industry and were often out at sea, leaving their wives behind to make major economic decisions concerning family finances. These women also contributed to the family's finances by getting their own jobs, most often in the canneries packaging the sardines that their husbands caught at sea. "Sicilian men and women appear to have had traditional relationships (men work as fishermen, women run the household), but Carol Lynn McKibben demonstrates that they depart in many ways from the stereotype," wrote Abraham Hoffman in the History Teacher.

In her sociological and historical look at these Sicilian immigrants, the author writes about three major crises that they faced. First, during World War II, their Italian heritage led them to be treated as enemy aliens because many had never become U.S. citizens. After the war, they faced another crisis with the decline of the sardine industry. Finally, the Sicilians created their own crisis by insulating themselves greatly from the wider community via ideas such as being against marriage with people of non-Sicilian heritage.

The author conducted approximately 150 interviews for the book to evoke the immigrants' everyday experiences through their first-person accounts and detailed descriptions. "McKibben quotes extensively, but she also synthesizes the stories of various women into an impressionistic portrayal of Sicilian women's lives over generations in a changing city," noted John Barnhill in the Canadian Journal of History. In the process, the author writes of how the cannery work by the Sicilian women played a crucial role not only in their economic lives but also in helping to create a new identity and community. In addition, the author shows how continuous migration created a strong sense of transnationalism among Sicilians in Monterey, which has enabled them to continue as a viable ethnic community into the twenty-first century.

Writing in Labour/Le Travail, Marcella Bencivenni commented that Beyond Cannery Row "is a significant contribution to the study and understanding of the processes of migration and settlement, and a compelling reminder of the crucial role of gender in shaping them." Journal of American History contributor Nancy C. Carnevale wrote: "McKibben's heavy reliance on oral histories makes for lively reading."



Biography, September 22, 2007, Gloria R. Lothrop, "Sicilian Women Immigrants," review of Beyond Cannery Row: Sicilian Women, Immigration, and Community in Monterey, California, 1915-99, p. 723.

Canadian Journal of History, autumn, 2006, John Barnhill, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 404.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, November, 2006, J.R. Mitrano, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 548.

History Teacher, August, 2006, Abraham Hoffman, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 541.

Journal of American Ethnic History, winter, 2007, Diane C. Vecchio, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 122.

Journal of American History, December, 2006, Nancy C. Carnevale, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 898.

Journal of the West, spring, 2007, Gerald Ronning, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 112.

Labour/Le Travail, fall, 2007, Marcella Bencivenni, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 304.

Monterey County Weekly, February 16, 2006, Jessica Lyons, "Sicilian Women and Families; Local Author Tells of a People Who Helped Make Monterey."

Pacific Historical Review, August, 2007, Gloria R. Lothrop, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 492.

Western Historical Quarterly, summer, 2007, Connie Y. Chiang, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 238.

Women's History Review, November, 2007, Louise Ryan, review of Beyond Cannery Row, p. 794.


Steinbeck Institute, (May 28, 2008), brief profile of author.

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McKibben, Carol Lynn 1955-

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