With his reportage and essays, Arax is mining territory somewhere between Rebecca Solnit and James Ellroy—here you'll find both thoughtful musings on geography and intense crime investigations. Written with real vitality and engagement, this book makes the sheer, weird diversity of California's cultures come alive. If you think of the Central Valley as a cultural wasteland, the glimpses of Fresno's Armenian community, the Valley's black Okie farmworkers and an FBI-targeted mosque in Lodi are a good place to start changing your point of view. —Recommended by Matt, City Lights Books
Teddy Roosevelt once exclaimed, "When I am in California, I am not in the West. I am west of the West," and in this book, Mark Arax spends four years traveling up and down the Golden State to explore its singular place in the world. This is California beyond the clichés. This is California as only a native son, deep in the dust, could draw it. Compelling, lyrical and ominous, his collection finds a different drama rising out of each confounding landscape. Arax combines journalism, essay, and memoir to capture social upheaval as well as the sense of being rooted in a community. Piece by piece, the stories become a whole, a stunning panorama of California, and America, in a new century.