‘Heyday of Malcolm Margolin’ a fun, feisty history 

“The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher” is an appropriately idiosyncratic history of the venerated writer, publisher and activist who started Berkeley’s pioneering small press Heyday Books 40 years ago.

Writer-editor Kim Bancroft conducted 22 interviews with Margolin and 48 with his family, friends, Heyday staff, board members and authors to “wrestle” hundreds of pages of transcripts and lively stories into a cohesive whole.

Margolin founded the company in 1974 to publish his own book, “The East Bay Out.” In 1978, he published “The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area,” now a classic.

Today the nonprofit publisher continues to release 25 books annually, with a focus on California literature, history and cultural studies, as well as “News from Native California,” a journal of California Indian writing. Its award-winning titles include “California Glaciers,” “Children of Manzanar” and “Wherever There’s a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers, and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California.”

Each chapter in “Heyday” begins with a quote from Margolin, then an abstract by Bancroft, before continuing in Margolin’s first-person voice. Excerpts from Heyday Books publications, segments of oral histories and personal philosophies written by friends and colleagues – such as “Malcolm on Shooting Pool” or “Malcolm Under a Tree” – round out the text.

“I was born on October 27, 1940, in Boston. I was once young, and I still like being young” begins Margolin, a natural storyteller. He follows with tales of meeting his wife Rina and moving to California.

Margolin recounts how Heyday got its name. He named his first son Reuben Heyday, he says, “because that’s just what hippies did.” He liked “Reuben” for its old Jewish sense and “Heyday” because it had a sense of celebration and wonderment. Then he named his daughter Sadie Cash. When it came time to name his small company, he couldn’t think of anything, so he picked Heyday Books as a placeholder.

He writes, “It was not meant to last. I thought that I’d publish a book, and I’d go on and do other things. I never thought I’d be a publisher.”

Margolin’s unconventional approach to life, publishing, writing and community building pervades the narrative, which digresses, jumps back and forth in time and is peppered with exclamation points. Forty black-and-white photos, mostly from the Margolin Family Collection, Bill Margolin and Heyday archives, complement the stories.


The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher

By: Kim Bancroft

Published by: Heyday Books

Pages: 384

Price: $20

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