Black Bubblegum and William Gonzalez’s Los Angeles

by Mike Sonksen

From: Angel City Review


Salvadoran-American poet William Gonzalez is intimately connected to the streets of Los Angeles. A product of the MacArthur Park, Pico-Union neighborhood, the man is an award-winning author, son, father and friend to all. Born at County USC-General Hospital, Gonzalez is Los Angeles as it gets. His first two books, Black Bubblegum and Blue Bubblegum are innovative works that peer behind the glossy facade of Los Angeles to reveal the blood and bones of the city. His newest book, Red Bubblegum, is set to be published in late Spring 2017.

A Poet Born for These Times

Gonzalez is closely connected to Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez and Tia Chucha’s Cafe Cultural, the bookstore/gallery space Rodriguez co-owns and operates with his wife Trini Rodriguez in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Their close connection is a dream come true for Gonzalez because Rodriguez was a longtime hero of his that he had read for many years before they met. Their friendship has developed over the last four years. During this time Gonzalez has connected with the legendary poet and done dozens of events at Tia Chuchas. Another significant voice from Tia Chucha’s is the prolific poet Jeffery Martin. Martin and Gonzalez are close friends that have collaborated on hundreds of readings over the last several years. Martin recently told me that, “William Gonzalez is a poet born for these times. His pen is concise and unafraid to speak about the world he sees and navigates through. He is inspiring because he writes the stories that everyone knows but few tell.” He tells these stories in Black Bubblegum.

Black Bubblegum includes 24 poems, 25 short stories and 18 pieces in Spanish. At just over 200 pages, the work is highly quotable. It also won first place in the New England Book Festival “Wild Card,” category in 2013 and won an honorable mention in the San Francisco Book Festival “Poetry,” category. Gonzalez has garnered these accolades because his work is equally inspiring, thoughtful, raw and hilarious. A core spirit of the book revolves around explicating his Los Angeles youth. In poem after poem and story after story, Gonzalez takes his readers up and down 6th Street and across Alvarado or as he phrases it across the “invisible boundary lines.”

Gonzalez spent many years of his 1980s childhood living on Bonnie Brae between Wilshire and 6th Street. A few streets east of MacArthur Park, this area is also called Westlake and it overlaps with the Pico-Union neighborhood just south. Known as one of the densest districts west of the Mississippi, the congested landscape surrounding his home made him acutely aware of urban reality. “Growing up around the MacArthur Park area during the 1980’s and 1990’s,” he tells me, “paints memories of living inside a third world country within one of the most powerful countries in the entire world. You name the social issue, and this was the area where a Sociology Professor could come stand on the corner of 6th and Bonnie Brae on a Friday night just to find out that everything he learned at an elite university was a lie.” Read Rest of Article Here


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