Author La Force Honored With Award

P1080393 (Small)Author Norman La Force (Creating the Eastshore State Park: An Activist History) was honored with the Sylvia McLaughlin Environmental Stewardship Award at the 30th anniversary celebration of CESP (Citizens for the Eastshore State Park) today, Nov. 7 2015.  State Senator Loni Hancock presented the award; see video below.

Also honored were Mayor Tom Bates of Berkeley, and Pat O’Brien,former General Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District.  Congresswoman Barbara Lee led off the event with a keynote address..  Special certificates of thanks went to Patricia V. Jones, the retiring Executive Director of CESP, and to Robert Cheasty, CESP Board President.  Assemblymember Tony Thurmond presented the award to Tom Bates.  Former Parks director Nancy Skinner presented the award to Pat O’Brien.

Barbara Lee

Barbara Lee

Nancy Skinner

Nancy Skinner

P1080356 (Small)

Pat O’Brien

Patricia Jones and Robert Cheasty

Tony Thurmond

Tony Thurmond

Tom Bates

Tom Bates

New and Now: Suddenly Jews, by Hartmut Ludwig

coverdraft7 (Custom)Beginning in 1933, when the Nazis took power, tens of thousands of German Christians — baptized, confirmed, and church-going — received official letters informing them that they were now classified as Jews.  For the Nazis, “Jew” was a race, not a faith.  Nazi functionaries digging in church baptismal records had turned up a parent or grandparent who had belonged to a synagogue, and so the descendant was stamped a part or full Jew.

When they were suddenly made Jews, these Christians fell between two chairs.  The official Protestant church, captured by the Nazis and often even more rabidly anti-Semitic than the Nazis themselves, drove them out and delivered them to persecution.  But the synagogues did not know them, and the ongoing local and international aid efforts to help members of the Jewish congregations did not include them. Typical was the fate of Paul Heinitz, who suffered a perforated ulcer in 1942. The ambulance driver refused to take him because as a Jew, Heinitz could not be treated in a Christian hospital, and as a Christian, he could not be treated in the remaining Jewish hospital, either.

Suddenly Jews focuses on the efforts of a Protestant clergyman, Heinrich Grüber, to organize assistance to this doubly marginalized community.  With the backing of a breakaway splinter from the official church, and always under the eyes of the Gestapo, Grüber put together a relief agency to help these victims emigrate, and to render other assistance where possible.  Their work under nightmarish conditions makes a gripping story.  Hundreds of individuals owe their lives to the Bureau Grüber’s work. For their service, Grüber and many of his associates were carted off to concentration camps, where many were murdered.  Suddenly Jews includes an honor roll of  those who worked on the aid effort.

The author, Prof. Hartmut Ludwig, is on the faculty of the Humboldt University in Berlin. He is a widely known authority on the 20th century German church and has numerous publications on this topic to his credit.  Suddenly Jews was his 1988 PhD thesis, expanded on the basis of new sources in 2009, and updated by the author for this American edition. I have edited the original to highlight the dramatic story at its heart and make it readable for a nonspecialist American audience.

The paperback edition is available now for online purchase at this link.  A Kindle e-book edition is also now immediately available here.  To order it via your bookstore, the ISBN is 978-1517109912; the short ISBN is 1517109914.

— Martin Nicolaus


Now on Sale: Creating the Eastshore State Park, by Norman La Force

Creating-Eastshore-State-PaThey say it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it took several villages and more to create this park — the Eastshore State Park.  Now the park stretches along the east side of San Francisco Bay from Richmond to Emeryville.  Thirty years ago it was only an idea.  The land was part garbage dumps, part toxic landfill, and most of it was privately owned by the Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad and allied private interests had very different ideas than a public park.  They wanted to fill the bay almost out to Alcatraz, to build shopping centers, an airport, navy base, hotels, luxury condos. Author Norman La Force, whose history of the struggle to build the park appears in book form today, compares it to the Thirty Years War.  He writes:

This was a political Thirty Years War for the shoreline. Indeed, the analogy to the Thirty Years War is apt for as with that conflict, it was fought for a time in one place, then stopped, to be fought again later or in a different location. It also represented a conflict between two different belief systems that would determine the fate of the communities involved. In the case of the East Bay Shoreline, the difference was between the belief, on the one hand, that the waterfront should be used for private development that would enrich the private owner and provide tax revenues to the cities along the shoreline, and the belief, on the other hand, that the shoreline should be held for the public with three objectives in mind. One was that the waterfront should be for public use and enjoyment. The second objective was to protect and preserve precious environmental and ecological resources that faced destruction from various development plans if they were not saved. The third objective was to retain the beauty of the open waterfront of the Bay.

headshot2La Force was uniquely positioned to write this history.  Beginning in the early 1980s he was a leading member of the local Sierra Club chapter, one of the key organizations in the ever-shifting coalition of groups that advocated for the park.  His is, without apology, an activist’s history. It is meticulously researched, it exposes weaknesses as well as strengths, but it burns with the fire of passion to get this park made.

The story of this prolonged war — it actually took closer to 40 years than 30 — is too complex to summarize here.  Read the book.  Suffice it to say that at one time or another it convulsed Emeryville, Berkeley, and Albany, and played out on a statewide level in Sacramento.  La Force’s book names dozens of organizations and many dozens of individuals who played a role; they’re listed in the book’s Index.

As La Force says in his conclusion, this effort

demonstrated what individual citizens could accomplish with perseverance and by organizing and using membership organizations to accomplish their goals. …. If the citizens’ effort to create the Eastshore State Park teaches anything, it is to show that individuals can make a difference and to demolish the shibboleth that an individual’s voice in public affairs does not count. The history of this effort also shows how important it was to build and create organizations and coalitions of groups and individuals to achieve the goal of creating the Park. Alone or singly one person could not have accomplished much, if anything, but organized with others and with people willing to take on leadership roles, much could be accomplished….  Success in creating the park also required a diversity of character traits and leadership methods. Each leader brought a different set of leadership skills to the effort, all of which were important when put together in a collective effort to achieve the common goal. No one method would have made success possible by itself…. Another important element in the success of this campaign was perseverance. At any one point, people could have just given up. Had that happened, no park would have been created.

La Force wrote this text in 2001-2002 as a manuscript that circulated among a few.  Now, on the thirtieth anniversary of the Committee for the Eastshore State Park (CESP), it is being published as a paperback and also as a Kindle e-book.  It’s a well-written account, filled with concrete detail and with names and places.  It will resonate with everyone who played a part in these decades of effort, and it will educate many who today enjoy the benefits of the park without knowing the passion and sometimes heartbreak that went into it.

Were you active in this movement? If so, your name may be in La Force’s seventeen-page Index.  Click here to view it.  Index first page

I happened across La Force’s manuscript while researching the history of Cesar Chavez Park.  Some pirate book sellers were offering purloined copies of the manuscript online at prices like $99.  I contacted La Force, and with his agreement, I formatted the pages as a book, cleaned up typos, added the index and cover, and published the result.  I was pleased to be able to use two of my photographs of the Berkeley Meadow for the cover.

Creating the Eastshore State Park by Norman La Force is available as a paperback online at  or or as a Kindle e-book .  If you attend the 30th anniversary brunch of CESP on Saturday Nov. 7 (2015), you can pick up a copy at a discount, but supplies are limited.


From Trash to Treasure now on Kindle

CC-Park-BookFront-Cover-Only-240hFrom Trash to Treasure, my photo book celebrating the beauties of Cesar Chavez Park, is now available as an e-book for Kindle.

Hats off to customer support, who walked me through the process of getting this photo book into the proper format.  You can feed Kindle a PDF file for a book that consists mostly of text, but it gags on a book that’s 99 per cent photos, like From Trash to Treasure.  However there’s a solution.  The Kindle Kids Book Creator is a utility tailormade for gobbling up graphic-intensive PDF files and turning them into books readable on the Kindle platform, on whatever device you run it on — Android, Apple, PC, Fire, or Paperwhite  — but only in black and white on the Paperwhite.  So now you can enjoy the splendors of this park on your hand-held electronic device, in addition to your handheld paper device a/k/a book.

Coming Soon: Creating the Eastshore State Park by Norman La Force

Creating-Eastshore-State-Pa Coming in October ’15:  Creating the Eastshore State Park, an Activist History by Norman La Force.  

The Eastshore State Park was the result of the work of many people over the course of close to 40 years. As a citizen effort it demonstrated what individual citizens could accomplish with perseverance and by organizing and using membership organizations to accomplish their goals. Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) provided a unifying organization for bringing together many different groups and points of view so that a common vision could be agreed upon and then articulated to the public and to public officials. Once only a dream, the Eastshore State Park today stretches for 8.5 miles and contains 2,000 acres of uplands and tidelands along the waterfront of Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany and Richmond.

headshot2Author Norman La Force became chair of the Sierra Club’s Shoreline Park Task force in 1983 and worked shoulder to shoulder with all the leading park activists throughout the decades of work that it took to establish the Eastshore State Park.  He was present at all of the key meetings and played a leading role in the pivotal decisions that ultimately led to success. His memoir names and acknowledges the contributions of many dozens of these individuals and of the numerous organizations that played a role in the effort.  This is an insider’s account that no one else could have written.   It vindicates the role of activist individuals and groups in accomplishing change, and holds valuable lessons for everyone concerned with public parks in our time.  La Force continues as an activist in the Sierra Club, CESP, and related organizations.

Coming Soon: Suddenly Jews, by Hartmut Ludwig

coverdraft7 (Custom)Suddenly Jews is the story of baptized, church-going Christians who one day in early 1933 found themselves classified as Jews by the Nazi authorities, because their ancestors had belonged to a synagogue. The sudden Jews were between a rock and a hard place. The synagogues did not know them, and the official church did not want them. In this perilous time, a fraction of the church split with the official church and set up an agency to try to help – the Bureau Grüber, named after the courageous and resourceful pastor who founded it.

In 1961, Pastor Grüber was the only German called as a witness in the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. He testified:

One evening I arrived very worn out in the Kurfürstenstrasse, and there I had the impression that the accused [Eichmann] had had, if I may say so, a good day. Perhaps he even took pity on me. I don’t know if the accused remembers this incident.
He said, ‘Why are you bothering with these Jews, anyway? No one will thank you for this work. Why all this big fuss for the Jews?’
I answered him, ‘Do you know the road that leads from Jerusalem to Jericho?’ And then I said, ‘Once there was a Jew lying on this road, who was the victim of robbers. And then someone came along who was not a Jew and he helped him. The Lord whom alone I obey says to me, “Go thou and do likewise.” That is my answer.’

Hartmut Ludwig is Professor of Church History at the Humboldt University in Berlin. He specializes in the church of the 20th century and is the author of numerous articles and books on the topic.

Translated and edited by Martin Nicolaus.  Available in print and as a Kindle book in late September ’15.

New at LifeRing Press: How Was Your Week? Second Edition.

HWYW2015-Front-Cover Option B (Small)The growing demand for an abstinent recovery pathway free of the twelve-step model drives the growth of LifeRing support groups. How Was Your Week is a comprehensive handbook for people who are considering starting LifeRing in their community. It’s also a useful reference for people already leading LifeRing meetings. How Was Your Week is based on thousands of hours of experience in face-to-face and online LifeRing meetings and includes the voices of dozens of experienced LifeRing group leaders (convenors).  This updated and expanded version of the first (2003) edition adds two more chapters, many more suggestions and hints, and a first-chapter summary for the reader in a hurry.

The fastest way to get the paperback is to order it from LifeRing Press,  You can also get it from but it will take longer as amazon has to first get the book from LifeRing Press before shipping it to you.

For instant gratification, there is a Kindle edition; click this link.

Fresh off the Press: From Trash to Treasure

CC-Park-BookFront-Cover-Only-240hMy new book, From Trash to Treasure: The Splendors of Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park, is now off the press and available for sale on

I really owe this book to a dog named Mosey.  Sheila Jordan, my wife, rescued Mosey from the pound about 15 years ago.  He lived for the chase of tennis balls.  Our relationship to the park developed like an addiction.  First we took the dog to the park. Then the dog took us to the park.

In the process, our eyes opened to the splendors of this magnificent piece of earth that we are privileged to have within a 12-minute drive of our home. Over the past decade, several thousand photos from the park and of the park accumulated on my hard drive.

This little book features 157 of the best of them.  It starts out with the obvious: views of the Golden Gate Bridge.  (One of my sons finds my caption for the first of my bridge photos “a bit racy.”)  Then come views of the City of San Francisco, Mt. Tam, and then the views north, south, and east.  Often the greatest drama is overhead.  There is a section of skyscapes, including some of the five-star sunsets we’ve seen during the past decade.  There are pages of homage to boats, kites, model airplanes, the solar calendar, dogs, flora and fauna, especially birds.  It ends with a gallery of people using the park — to walk, run, play ball, dance, play music, stretch, fish, talk, love, or just sit and meditate on the wonder of it all.

In a short introduction, I sketch the history of the place.  Most first-time visitors don’t know it, but the park used to be the city dump.  On the park’s hilltops we stand on 50-60 feet of garbage.  It took a decades-long battle by a broad coalition of environmentalists to convert this offal to the feast for the eyes that it is today.

I plan to set up an ironing board and sell copies of the book on mild days at the park after the holidays.  A portion of the proceeds (which are slim because producing full-color items is not cheap) will go to support the Viva Cesar Chavez Park group that is in the process of being organized.

Putting this book together has been a pleasure unlike any of my previous book projects.  I hope you enjoy it also.  Click here to have send you your own copy.  No, there is no Kindle edition.

At LifeRing Press: Recovery by Choice: the Workbook

Workbook11cover2-240hBack in ’99 a couple of us early LifeRing convenors gave a talk about our 12-step alternative to a group of clients at MPI, an addiction rehab in Summit Hospital on Pill Hill in Oakland.

“Before you guys came, my alternatives were AA or a bullet to the head,” said one client when we were done.  “I like my chances better now.”  Before we had a chance to process that, he followed up.

“But do you guys have some kind of workbook with, like, the nuts and bolts of what you do?”

Of course, we didn’t.  We had barely got to the point where we had a good grasp of the general ideas that motivated us — sobriety, secularity, and self-help.  This young man’s question told us it was time to roll up our sleeves.

The workbook went through 16 alpha and 6 beta editions in photocopy, tested on dozens of groups at MPI and at handpicked focus groups, before we went to the printer in 2001.  That first edition had a wire spiral binding.  We had a bulk order from a prison.  Wire was considered a lethal weapon.  Even a plastic comb binding was prohibited.   The printer cut off the wire spine and rebound the book as a paperback before we shipped.  Lesson learned.

This workbook is now in its fourth printing, and that’s well on the way out the door.  Scores of readers have written in to say how much it has helped them.  What makes this book tick?

I can’t say.  Different people like different things about it.  I suspect that the book works mostly because alcoholics, like people in general, don’t like being told what to do.  People especially don’t like to be micro-managed.  They like to have choice.

Every modern study of what works in treatment says that treatment has to be individualized to fit the client.  Off-the-shelf, factory-made, one-size-fits-all approaches are a formula for failure.  (Read more about that in Empowering Your Sober Self.)  The Recovery by Choice workbook  is the only workbook on the market that’s grounded on the individualized treatment approach.

This workbook doesn’t tell you what to do, except in the very basic sense of reminding you not to put alcohol or other drugs into your body, no matter what.  (It does that on every page, in the header.) This workbook doesn’t pretend to have a formula for solving your medical, lifestyle, emotional, psychological or other problems.  It isn’t selling a miracle diet, a magic potion, or a silver bullet.

This workbook is a tool for you to build your personal recovery program.  It’s for you to figure out what is going to work to keep you clean and sober.  The “miracle” is the effort you put into figuring out how to meet the challenges of your life.  The “magic potion” is the blood and sweat you invest in breaking with your substance-using past and building a new, free, clean and sober present and future.

In short, it’s a real WORKbook.  The book has many hundreds of questions — some easy, some fiendishly challenging.  To work this book, you have to THINK.  You have to look hard at yourself and your situation.  There’s no correct answers, except the answers that work for you to keep you clean and sober.

The book organizes the work into nine main areas (or domains), each with its own chapter.  For example, the first domain is your body.  You give yourself a wide-ranging medical exam and make a practical plan for dealing with any issues you identify.   Exposure, Activities, People, Feelings, Lifestyle, History, Culture, and Treatment are the other domains.  (You can work them in any order, or ignore parts that don’t apply to you.)  In each domain, you make a plan for dealing with any issues you have in that area.  At the end of the book you put all those partial plans together into a master plan.  That’s your Personal Recovery Program (PRP).  Use pencil, because a successful plan needs to adapt when your life changes.

We’re accustomed to think that the carpenter builds the house.  But it’s also true that the house builds the carpenter.  As you work the workbook you construct your personal recovery program.  But in the process of doing that work, you are reconstructing yourself as a new person — a person who is clean and sober, and confident, and capable of meeting life’s challenges.

Recovery by Choice is sold by LifeRing Press.  There is no e-book edition at this point, although there may be one in the future.  There is no way to make an audiobook out of it.

The book is built for individual use by the recovering person (“bibliotherapy”).  It’s not a professional’s treatment manual.  (That’s in the early preparation stage.)  But treatment programs find Recovery by Choice a useful thing to give to clients who don’t resonate with the 12-step approach.  It provides a treatment pathway based on secular (rather than religious) principles. LifeRing Press offers quantity discounts to treatment programs and other institutions.  Check it out.




New at LifeRing Press: Empowering Your Sober Self – Second Edition

eyss2-Front-Cover-for-Kindle-240hIn 2008, Alan Rinzler, the legendary editor for the Wiley publishing house, contacted me out of the blue and asked me to write a book about LifeRing.  I had been CEO of LifeRing Secular Recovery for a dozen years and had written and spoken about it to audiences in the addiction recovery subculture many times.  But, Alan felt, there needed to be a book for the general public.  About a year later, Empowering Your Sober Self went to press under Wiley’s Jossey-Bass imprint.

Like so many other recovery books, this one begins with a personal story, mine.  But unlike the run of the mill of this genre, my turnaround had nothing to do with a vision of God or any similar spiritual experience.  From the first day of entering treatment, I enjoyed the privilege of attending secular support groups.  In this setting, people’s personal religious beliefs or disbeliefs remained their private business, and the focus was on mutual support for getting free of the bonds that bound us to alcohol and other addictive drugs.

This environment worked for me, and for most of my companions in recovery, and after I found my land legs, as it were, I began to try to understand how and why it worked.  Empowering Your Sober Self is one man’s effort to raise the experience of sixteen years of personal sobriety work up to a theoretical level.  This meant sifting through my exposure in literally thousands of LifeRing meetings and focusing on the illuminating, vibrant, pulsating threads that gave the whole process its life.  It meant rising from the anecdotal level to the level of verifiable generalities, and this in turn required checking my impressions against a considerable body of published research in the chemical dependency literature.  This also led me on side trips into theology and genetics.  Writing this book was an intellectual adventure, and, although the research involved many hours of sheer drudgery, the project on the whole was great fun and left me exhilarated.

Although the publisher did next to nothing to promote the book — a complaint that nearly every author lodges nowadays against nearly every commercial publisher — the initial press run sold out, with sales accelerating.  I owe a debt of gratitude to  the publisher for granting my request to revert the publishing rights to me as author in time for a second edition.  I in turn have granted the rights to LifeRing Press.

This second edition is completely reset with new typography and updated graphics, as well as a new index.  It corrects several typographical errors and cleans up one or two formatting glitches.  The text has otherwise been left alone.  In view of the considerable amount of new material published in the previous five years, I’ve added a Supplement that updates the sixth chapter, dealing with addiction treatment, and the seventh chapter, on genetics.

Because the book has a new and different ISBN, it has a new and different listing on   The new listing is here, and, after considerable pleading on my part, has managed to copy the reader comments from its listing for the first edition to the new listing.   However, grateful as I am, I wouldn’t suggest that you order it from  Amazon doesn’t stock the book.  Only LifeRing Press has inventory.  Amazon has to forward your order to LifeRing Press, who will ship it to you, and this forwarding causes delay.  The fastest way is to order the book directly from the publisher, LifeRing Press, here.   LifeRing Press ships very quickly, often the same day.  The people in charge there are themselves in recovery and understand about instant gratification.

However, if you really need it Right Away, there’s the Kindle version of the second edition.  With a few clicks you can be reading it in less than a minute.

An audiobook version of the second edition is also now available, click this link.

Quite a few people have told me that the first edition has been a force for good in their lives.  There is no greater reward for an author than this.