Orange County: A Literary Field Guide

A literary journey through Southern California’s storied county

Even by California’s standards, the County of Orange teems with abundance: in sweeping topography along the azure Pacific, in sprawling suburbs, in promises of prosperity, and in its self-perpetuated reputation as a citrus-lined paradise. But the acclaimed fertility of this corner of California is not just agricultural or economic, as this new anthology shows. In this literary field guide, more than sixty writers—some well known, others emerging—lead readers on a tour that begins at the coast and heads inland over the Santa Ana Mountains, through the canyons, and into the cities of Anaheim, Irvine, and Orange in search of vistas of truth. Luminaries including Michael Chabon, Philip K. Dick, Steve Martin, and Susan Straight explore the complexities and contradictions of the county, locating readers in a place made in equal measure by 950 square miles of land and the imagination. A foreword by Gustavo Arellano, author of Orange County: A Personal History and the syndicated column ¡Ask a Mexican!, unravels the idealized past and paradoxical present of this much-mythologized locale.


“This book, filled with empathy and environmentalism, is poetic critical geography. It is wonderful.”—Elaine Lewinnek, Boom California

About the Editors

Lisa Alvarez grew up in and around Los Angeles. She earned her MFA from UC Irvine and is a professor of English at Irvine Valley College. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Codex Journal, Faultline, Green Mountains Review, Huizache, Truthdig, and Zócalo Public Square. Alvarez coedited Writer’s Workshop in a Book: The Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction with the late Alan Cheuse and codirects the annual Community of Writers summer conference in Squaw Valley, California. She lives in Modjeska Canyon.

Born in Lynwood, California, Andrew Tonkovich studied with poet Peter Carr at CSU Long Beach and with Oakley Hall at UC Irvine, where Tonkovich teaches writing. He has published short stories, essays, and reviews in Ecotone, Faultline, the Orange Coast Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and he hosts the literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio on Pacifica’s KPFK and is the longtime editor of the Santa Monica Review. He lives in Modjeska Canyon.