Review: A People’s Guide To Los Angeles

I like the idea of A People’s Guide to Los Angeles much better than the execution. That idea as put forward in the introduction is to embed a history of some of LA’s ephemeral past of protest in a visitors’ guidebook to the city. As someone who likes to hear about such history and visit the places on my bike rides, this sounds great. Laura Pulido and Laura Barraclough – historians – team up with Wendy Cheng – a photographer – to carry this out.

It doesn’t quite work for me. They are certainly hamstrung by the proclivity of the movers and shakers proclivity to steamroll racial and labor protests, uprisings, or riots. Those movers and shakers make a lot of hay from SoCal being a tourist and lifestyle destination, so it’s in their interest to move on past events as quickly as possible. That manifests in a lack of historical markers or even extant buildings (paging James Loewen).

While I recognise the challenge, the real place it fell down for me is that while the articles are informative, they generally don’t communicate a sense of the place of the sites. The information is all there – street addresses and often pictures – but it doesn’t evoke the idea of going to see them for me. To be fair, there’s only so exciting one can make a parking lot that was once a nightclub or gathering place for organizers. Still, without the draw to explore the sites, it doesn’t rise above a somewhat disjointed history of LA protest.

Recommended if you’re interested in protest history and think City of Quartz or Set The Night On Fire are too dense to start with.

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