My knowledge of Los Angeles was very limited before I came to the U.S. In the majority of movies that I have seen when I was young, L.A. is painted as a lavish city, filled with high-rise buildings in Downtown L.A. and wealthy people shopping at Beverly Hill. I dreamed of visiting Hollywood one day and (hopefully) meeting celebrities there. It was only until I lived in and explored L.A. that I saw a whole new facet of the city.
Besides the beautiful houses in Beverly Hill and the high-rise buildings are the more “ghetto” areas, homes to those we refer to as gangsters, and temporary homes to those without a real home. It’s not until then that I realized how diverse L.A. is. With the population of almost 4 million people, L.A. is home to people from all over the world who have different backgrounds and speak different languages. There are Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Thai Town, Little Ethiopia, and many more ethnic communities within L.A. For me, L.A. is a restless city, because it’s fast-paced and constantly evolving. There is always something happening, whether daytime or nighttime. The city appears to never sleep.
Source: Jessica Faulkner
If you ever visit L.A., or even live and study in L.A., make sure to explore different neighborhoods to be immersed with the city’s diverse cultures. If you’re interested in learning more about the City of Angels, check out this list of recommended books about Los Angeles below.
- Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 – Anna Deavere Smith
- What Makes Sammy Run? – Budd Schulberg
- Locas: A Novel – Yxta Maya Murray
- The Day of the Locust – Nathanael West
- Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned – Walter Mosley
- Tropic of Orange – Karen Tei Yamashita
- A Single Man – Christopher Isherwood
- This Book Will Save Your Life – A.M. Homes
Source: Daryl Roth Productions
Smith’s Twilight shed a new light on the 1992 riot in L.A. for an international student like myself who is less familiar with the subject. Written as short and easy-to-read free-verse interviews, Twilight contains a lot of interesting perspectives and emotional stories from people with different backgrounds and occupations, including LAPD officials, jurors, victims of the riots, as well as L.A. residents. If you want to have a better understanding of what happened during the 1992 riot in L.A. and how it affected people, this is the book for you.
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What Makes Sammy Run? is a story of the rise and fall of Sammy Glick, a Jewish boy born in New York’s Lower East side who received little education when he was young but eventually climbed his way to the top through deception and betrayal. Each chapter unfolds the tale of how Sammy manages to rise from being an unknown copy-boy to establishing his fame as a Hollywood screenwriter through Al Manheim first-person narrative. I really enjoy this book because it gets me thinking by discussing the profound rags to riches transition of Sammy – someone who has such a strong desire to escape from poverty and rise to stardom that he’s willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means backstabbing others, faking his reputation, and sacrificing his friendships and true happiness.
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Murray’s Locas paints a raw picture of East L.A. gang life in the 80s and 90s. The story is told from the perspective of 2 young Mexican girls, the sister and the girlfriend of a gangster in Echo Park – an East L.A. neighborhood. While the story is heartbreaking and contains confusing Spanish words/expressions at times (considered I don’t know Spanish at all), it offers a powerful glimpse into the gangster life from the perspectives of 2 young girls with very different visions.
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West’s The Day of the Locust revolves around Tod Hackett, an artist who travels to California, specifically Hollywood in L.A. in search for inspiration for his upcoming painting, titled “The Burning of Los Angeles”. Throughout his journey, Tod befriends with multiple Hollywood-stereotypical characters who shared the American dream. The book makes me think more about whether or not everyone can achieve the glory American dream just by being there.
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1 of my all-time-favorite and highly recommended fiction books. Each chapter in Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned is a short story that documents the post-prison life Socrates Fortlow, a 58-year-old African American ex-convict who served 27 years in prison for a double murder. Socrates moves to Watts, L.A., after his release to start a new life, while constantly having to deal with the burden of guilt over his past actions, the anger at both himself and the world around him, and the struggle to redeem himself and identify what is right and wrong.
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Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange describes the stories of 7 diverse characters intertwined through a mystical orange over the course of 7 days in L.A. and Mexico.
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A Single Man depicts a one-day-story (and also happens to be the final day) of George Falconer, a middle-aged Englishman and professor at a university in L.A., and his struggle to cope with the sudden death of his partner, Jim, from a car crash. The novel is bold and deeply moved, as Christopher Isherwood, the author, illustrates George’s bereavement and effort to make a connection with the world and people around him. There is also a film adaptation of the novel with the same name in 2009 starring Colin Firth as George if you want to check it out.
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Homes’ This Book will Save Your Life probably won’t save your life in the literal sense, but it’s likely to make you laugh and ponder more about life and the world around you. The main character, Richard Novak, stumbles upon a series of bizarre and surreal events and befriends with various eccentric characters, including a donut maker and a writer, among others. These events and characters force Richard to identify what really matters and reflect upon his life.
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About Hue La
Hey there, I'm Hue (pronounced “huay”, not “hue” like how you would normally say it in English). I'm a USC graduate and traveler with 6+ years of study abroad experience in the U.S. I founded Study Abroad Corner with the goals of providing helpful advice and building a social network for fellow study abroaders around the world.