The following is a list of Los Angeles Literature that was published in 2015 followed by a synopsis. These books allow the reader to see Los Angeles in new and important ways, through the perspectives of its diverse citizens who see the city through their beliefs, understandings of the world and opinions. Even if someone studies Los Angeles for their entire career, one won’t know everything about Los Angeles there is to know and learn how expansive the city truly is.
All Involved by Ryan Gattis
All Involved is a novel of historical fiction set during the 6 days of the 1992 L.A. Riots. It tells of this chaos with an unmatched level of scope, authenticity, and insight into the South Central city of Lynwood, as well as the overlapping worlds of firefighters, nurses, graffiti artists, and, most of all, members of Latino street gangs. It tells seventeen interconnected first-person narratives that paint a portrait of modern America itself—laying bare our history, our prejudices, and our complexities in the context of Los Angeles. Gattis grounded the novel in nearly 2.5 years of extensive research & background spent with former Latino gang members to create characters that capture the voices of gang members, firefighters, graffiti kids, and nurses caught up in these extraordinary circumstances.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties. It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause.
The Yellow Door by Amy Uyematsu
Sansei Amy Uyematsu’s The Yellow Door celebrates her Japanese-American roots and the profound changes that have occurred in her lifetime. As a woman born after World War II, her six decades in Los Angeles are captured in verse that link Hokusai woodblack paintings, her grandparents’ journeys to California, church parties playing Motown music, and Buddhist obon festivals. With the color yellow as a running theme, Uyematsu embraces “the idea of being a curious, sometimes furious yellow.” A genuine product of the sixties, she adds her own unique LA Buddhahead twist to Asian American identity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Bayond edited by Suzanne Lumis
Wide Awake draws together nationally acclaimed poets and gifted newer writers—one hundred twelve poets of Los Angeles and its surrounding territories—whose work speaks to the humanity, pathos and comedy, of what may be the most romanticized and scorned, disparaged and exalted of the world’s great cities. With respect to style, the selections range from the narrative to the more open-ended or non-sequential, classic formal verse to robust vernacular, and in this way speak to the lively state of North American poetry in our age. Poets include David St. John, Wanda Coleman, Cecilia Woloch, Lynne Thompson, Timothy Steele, Kate Gale, Gail Wronsky, Terry Wolverton, Luis J. Rodriguez, Tony Barnstone, Robin Coste Lewis, William Archila and Melissa Roxas.
Crush by Phoef Sutton
Caleb Rush, a. k. a. Crush, is the toughest, coolest bodyguard/bouncer in Los Angeles, a man who lives strictly by his own moral code, which doesn’t exactly hew to the standards of US law. When Amelia Trask, the wild daughter of a scruples-free billionaire tycoon, comes to Crush for help, his quiet life roars into overdrive, and he has to use his wits, brawn, martial-arts training, and knowledge of the Russian mafia to stay alive and clean up the mess that young Amelia has created. Crush is a rollicking, page-turning ride through LA, full of action, suspense, memorable characters, and a sly wit.
LAtitudes: An Angelenos Atlas edited by Patricia Wakida
This literary and cartographic exploration of Los Angeles reorients our understanding of the city in highly imaginative ways. Illuminated by boldly conceived and artfully rendered maps and infographics, nineteen essays by LA’s most exciting writers reveal complex histories and perspectives of a place notorious for superficiality. This chorus of voices explores wildly different subjects: Cindi Alvitre unveils the indigenous Tongva presence of the Los Angeles Basin; Michael Jaime-Becerra takes us into the smoky, spicy kitchens of a family taquero business in El Monte; Steve Graves traces the cowboy-and-spacemen-themed landscapes of the San Fernando Valley. Overlooked sites and phenomena become apparent: LGBT churches and synagogues, a fabled ”Cycleway,” mustachioed golden carp, urban forests, lost buildings, ugly buildings. What has been ignored, such as environmental and social injustice, is addressed with powerful anger and elegiac sadness, and what has been maligned is reexamined with a sense of pride: the city’s freeways, for example, take the shape of a dove when viewed from midair and pulsate with wailing blues, surf rock, and brassy banda.
Ball: Stories by Tara Ison
Ball explores the darker edges of love and sex and death, how they are intimately and often violently connected, with bright, vivid stories set mostly in contemporary Los Angeles. In “Cactus,” a young girl comes to fear the outside world following the freakish, accidental death of her adventure-seeking, naturalist boyfriend in the California desert; in “Wig,” a woman must help her best friend face life-threatening cancer while covering up an unseemly affair with her friend’s husband; in “Fish,” the narrator sits watch over a dying uncle, trying to pay for past sins while administering to his final needs, but distracted by the ravenous fish in the Koi pond near the hospital; and in the collection’s stunning title story, the bonds of friendship and pet ownership collide in the most startling and unexpected ways.
Dead Soon Enough by Steph Cha
Finally a licensed private detective, Steph Cha’s “compelling and original” (LA Times) crime heroine Juniper Song is managing her own cases as the junior investigator of Lindley & Flores. When a woman named Rubina Gasparian approaches Song, she knows she’s in for her most unusual case yet. Rubin and her husband Van-both Armenian-American doctors-cannot get pregnant, so Rubina’s younger cousin, Lusig, is acting as their surrogate. However, Lusig’s best friend Nora has been missing for a month, and Rubina is concerned that her nearly eight-month-pregnant cousin is dealing with her stress in a way that could harm the baby. Rubina hires Song to shadow her and report all that she finds. Of course, Lusig is frantically searching for Nora, and Song’s case soon turns into a hunt for the missing woman, an activist embroiled in an ugly, public battle over the erection of an Armenian genocide memorial. As Song probes the depths of both the tight-knit Armenian-American community and the groups who antagonize it, she realizes that Nora was surrounded on all sides by danger. But can she find out what happened before it’s too late for Nora or Rubina and Van’s child-or for Song herself?
Serious Longing by Jessica Wilson
Wilson’s first book of poetry, Serious Longing, published by Swan World Press out of Paris, France. Patrice Kanozsai says of the collection, “Deep and whole poetry about origins, ancestors, childhood with real efficient poetic words…Sometimes amazing…Sometimes funny… Always relevant. Jessica will take us with Jim Morrison in a rabid hole…” and Juan Cardenas says, “With Serious Longing, Jessica’s elegant vocabulary embodies metaphors, her imaginative visuals are exquisitely vivid and will transport you to the core of her emotion.”
Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr
When four city-bred Los Angeles yuppies go backpacking in the rugged wilderness of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, their trip turns out to be a nightmare of bad decisions and even worse luck. Revoyr’s (Wingshooters) novel is a suspenseful adventure story that explores how people react to danger, uncertainty, fear, and life-or-death choices. Tracy, an aggressive fitness trainer and risk-taking hiking guide, organizes the easy 30-mile hike with three of her clients (who don’t know one another). There is Gwen, a counselor of at-risk kids in South L.A.; Oscar, a disgruntled real estate salesman with judgment issues; and Todd, a burned-out lawyer in an unhappy marriage. Tracy is the expert—the others are novices, and their naïve bravado and macho bluster has grave consequences. A forestry glitch changes their hiking route, forcing them to a remote, little-used trail to Lost Canyon. The trek is more arduous than expected and becomes more and more dangerous, culminating in a fateful decision and desperate measures.
Project Fatherhood by Jorja Leap
In 2010, former gang leader turned community activist Big Mike Cummings asked UCLA gang expert Jorja Leap to co-lead a group of men struggling to be better fathers in Watts, South Los Angeles, a neighborhood long burdened with a legacy of racialized poverty, violence, and incarceration. These men, black and brown, from late adolescence to middle age, are trying to heal themselves and their community, and above all to build their identities as fathers. Each week, they come together to help one another answer the question “How can I be a good father when I’ve never had one?”
Project Fatherhood follows the lives of the men as they struggle with the pain of their own losses, the chronic pressures of poverty and unemployment, and the unquenchable desire to do better and provide more for the next generation. Although the group begins as a forum for them to discuss issues relating to their roles as parents, it slowly grows to mean much more: it becomes a place where they can share jokes and traumatic experiences, joys and sorrows. As the men repair their own lives and gain confidence, the group also becomes a place for them to plan and carry out activities to help the Watts community grow as well as thrive.
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man is shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of the thousands of black Americans murdered that year. His assailant runs down the street, jumps into an SUV, and vanishes, hoping to join the scores of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes.
But as soon as the case is assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shift.
Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.
Hollywood Notebook by Wendy C. Ortiz
Hollywood Notebook is a prose poem-ish memoir of fragments. Ortiz takes us through the streets of Los Angeles and the internal maps she’s charting as she moves from her twenties to her thirties in a studio apartment in Hollywood. A cartography of love, loss, and transformation, Hollywood Notebook is a portrait of the author’s psyche overlaid on a map of the city she makes her home.