LAtitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas

Western Regional Nonfiction Gold Medal Winner, Independent Publisher Book Award

Anthology Finalist, Next Generation Indie Book Awards

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.

Inspired by other texts that combine literature and landscape, including Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City, this book’s juxtapositions make surprising connections and stir up undercurrents of truth. To all those who inhabit, love, or seek to understand Los Angeles, LAtitudes gives meaning and reward.

Reviews

“In consciously directing readers down a series of proverbial paths less taken, LAtitudes belies that laziest of stereotypes of Los Angeles as a homogenous, undifferentiated mass. As the book makes clear, the city is both palimpsest and jigsaw puzzle, all layers and fragments.”—Oliver Wang, Los Angeles Times

 

“Written by an eclectic group of wits and scholars, this colorful and beautifully designed volume can be read again and again.”—Jill Stewart, LA Weekly

 

“Expresses the soul and spirit of Los Angeles.”—Glen Creason, Los Angeles Magazine

 

“Whole-heartedly embraces the Whitmanesque myth of Los Angeles: ‘Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.’”—Jon Christensen, LA Observed

 

“A great addition to any proud Angeleno’s library.”—Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Terrain

 

“A valuable contribution to the growing list of books in the geography of LA Letters.”—Mike Sonksen, LA Letters

 

“Unique, fascinating, and totally fresh.…Oh, yes, and LAtitudes has plenty of attitude. A must for anyone interested in Los Angeles history, culture, geography, or food.”—Lisa See, author of Shanghai Girls: A Novel

 

“As a geographer I’m always quick to describe LA as a failed city, an urban planning horror that has led to people like me who lived sixty miles from downtown to claim they’re ‘basically from LA.’ After reading LAtitudes, however, I returned to Los Angeles this year with a newfound respect for the hopeful attempts, negotiations, complications, and mistakes that have made the city what it is today: a composite urban behemoth of bewildering beauty. The only thing more enticing than the quality of the prose in this book is the depth of the ideas contained therein.”—Bradley L. Garrett, author of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City

 

“A humane and beautifully written biography of the city that is also a lyrical exploration of its many layers…a source of inspiration and surprise for those of us who think we know LA as well those who have only imagined it from afar.”—Alastair Bonnett, author of Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

 

“Here we have a volume that, through stories of LA’s history, tells stories of our present and foretells our future. Based on insights from a diverse group of authors, LAtitudes reveals not only our geography but our complicated, dark, and hopeful soul for those that seek to understand our glorious city.”—Karen Mack, founder and executive director, LA Commons

 

“Offers the reader secrets that Google Maps is incapable of finding, navigation tips through the past, present, and future that Waze cannot fathom, and an understanding of Los Angeles that our trusted Thomas Guides could never reveal. What you hold in your hand is the new essential atlas for Los Angeles.”—Aaron Paley, cofounder, CARS and CicLAvia

 

“Through original and illustrative cartography, the stories of LA’s past and present are told the way they should be—dynamically with essays rich in historical content and distinct Angeleno experiences.”—Liza Posas, coordinator, LA as Subject

 

“When I created my atlas of San Francisco, I was hoping that we were at the dawn of a new era of inventive, subversive, gorgeous mapping and social geographies. Let a thousand atlases bloom, I kept muttering, and I couldn’t be more pleased that the first horse out of the gate—first tiger lily in the flowerbed?—is of the city of angels and overpasses and pastrami and tacos, of forgotten rivers, wars, refugees, voters, homesteaders, of dreams busy biting the dust and tribes miraculously reappearing. Cities are inexhaustible; they exist in countless versions, depending on who you ask and where you go and what you want; and an atlas like LAtitudes invites you to open up other people’s versions and in so doing find your own.”—Rebecca Solnit, author of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas and Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

About the Editor

Patricia WakidaPatricia Wakida’s published books, essays, stories, and poetry include: Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment ExperienceGenerations ExperienceA Japanese American Community PortraitLetters of Intent,  the San Francisco Bay GuardianNikkei HeritageKyoto JournalSanta Barbara Review, and the International Quarterly.