The one and only Cheryl Strayed passes on her wisdom about literature’s grand mission, the long game and the writer’s role in grim political moments.
“I’d never asked for a brother, but suddenly, there he was, and I got a Disney View Master, a plastic toy that brought a slide show to life as light shined through.”
“The other day, my son asked who our king is. Normally, I would laugh — but right now it feels a little too precarious.”
At Angels Flight • literary west, we love being in L.A., but in this excerpt from his memoir, GUN, NEEDLE, SPOON, Patrick O’Neil tells the story of a time when he had to get out.
“Then one day, out on the yard, a giant corn-fed thug, his skin covered in swastikas, sided up to me and handed me this book: ‘Yo, ya gotta read this, bro.’” A Q&A with AFLW’s creative non-fiction editor Seth Fischer and Patrick O’Neil, author of GUN, NEEDLE, SPOON, and also a teacher, filmmaker, former roadie, former junkie, former bank robber and current badass.
“After our mother died, my three siblings and I went through all of the photos she’d left behind, separating them into stacks: Family. Friends. Men.”
“Use the literature of Los Angeles as a guide. Read about Acosta’s cockroach people, Babitz’s sex and rage, Banham’s ecologies, Beatty’s white boy shuffle, Boyle’s tortilla curtain, Braverman’s frantic transmissions, Bukowski’s post office, Butler’s speech sounds and Brinig’s flutter of an eyelid.”
“There is a choice we must make: to be on the right side of history or the wrong one, to say, ‘I fought in the face of fascism’ or ‘I just went along for the ride.'” On resistance, black joy, disability and work to do by #DisabledAndCute creator Keah Brown.
“Hospitality is one of our most vital forms of resistance. Each of us must push past our hatred and fear to open a door, and each of us must find the courage to step in.”
Julia Ingalls has always reconciled difficult times through music. Hearing David Bowie’s “Modern Love” on the night of the election, “the song was now a lesson in how to battle alienation with a snazzy rictus, to stand among the brightest lights yet feel utterly alone, in the dark.”
On the heels of the powerful Women’s March, when love trumped hate en masse, a message from the heart: Invest in love.
A call to action: “As the dark wings of native fascism threaten to blot out our sun, it is essential that American writers, artists, poets, journalists and musicians use their imaginative resources to push against that darkness.”
Author and activist Désirée Zamorano questions how we go forward, but is determined to fight. “Each day the news can be petrifying, freezing us in steps. What good can I do? And since we cannot do this alone, to you I say, ‘Join us, bring your art, your talent, your compassion, your energy.’ Because there is no Wonder Woman. There’s only us.”
We have been honored to feature an array of tremendous titles from incredibly talented and diverse writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Here are some of our favorites published in the year we now leave behind.
“Our role to make our country great will never be easy, but the American way is to get back up and fight for what this country should and must stand for. I am not alone. We are not alone. Sending peace and love to my fellow Americans. We’ve got work to do.”
Visiting Manzanar, a former Japanese internment camp in the California desert, challenged one writer to ask how to move forward after witnessing the consequences of U.S. policies through the lens of history. “To realize that, no matter who’s in charge, this is our country. We, the people, play a valuable part in transforming it.”
For the first time in her life, writer Alana Saltz is afraid of being Jewish. She isn’t alone. Yet history has taught her not to give in to fear, but to fight back and to survive.
“We live inside stories. Stories we tell ourselves about who we are, about where we come from, about what the world is.” Now, more than ever, author Samantha Dunn is committed to telling her story and to helping others tell their stories, too. “This is a long game, folks. Be the storytellers.”
Ryann Perlstein, a 16-year-old high school sophomore, learned a tough lesson in adult politics when she interviewed a parent for her school paper. The parent turned out to be celebrity Republican Scott Baio. The experience made her realize how critical it is now to take action to make a difference.
A holiday toast to fighting the good fight. Get a taste of THE POLITICAL COOKBOOK: A Compendium of American Dishes by humorist George R. Wolfe. First, we whet your appetite with satirical cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Then, main dishes and desserts. Vive la Revolution!
When the Electoral College cast its vote, our collective loss on 11/9 resonated doubly. How do we continue to hope when hope seems lost and far off?
“I hadn’t noticed the accumulation of paper cuts until now. All those moments when I gave a man something he wanted. I carry around these memories like a jar of stones that dream of shattering windows.”
“I wish I could make the piñata’s vibrant colors fade to pale nothingness, but I still see that mouth. It haunts me like a giant black hole, hungry to suck the entire universe into its grim, empty abyss.”
“Can you imagine a Saddam-like statue outside the White House — a massive, gold-plated tuft of hair blotting out the view from the Jefferson Memorial — bearing the words ‘Donald J. Trump, Leader of the Free World?’ Don’t laugh. It could happen.”
“I am Her. Every woman is, whether she knows it or not. And the tears keep falling.”
A poignant letter and apology from a journalist and writer to his daughter in this tenuous and frightening time mounting in our country, a promise to do all he can and a message for her: Resist.
A pledge we make. “Hope is no superficial undertaking, but demands absolute allegiance even in apocalyptic times.”
A instant bestseller, LOS ANGELES IN THE 1970s, an anthology edited by David Kukoff, gives an insider’s look into the good, the bad and the ugly of L.A. in its heyday, with contributions from The Doors’ John Densmore, Matthew Specktor, Luis Rodriguez, Susan Hayden, Deanne Stillman, Dana Johnson, Jeremy Rosenberg and more.
“Some people will backpack or scale mountains to remember who they really are. Some dive to the blackest ocean depths or don boxing gloves or parachute into thin air. I found a different way.”
THE BITCH IS BACK: OLDER, WISER, AND (GETTING) HAPPIER editor Cathi Hanauer shares an in-depth overview of the BITCH series, insights into powerful essays by 25 prominent women writers, and the joy and method of her rigorous editing process.
In a pulsing excerpt and personal Q&A, John Doe, from X, recreates an unforgettable night at the Whisky a Go Go and reflects on his journey from the early days of punk L.A.
An excerpt from Deanne Stillman’s epic MUSTANG, with excerpts from the just-released audio version, narrated by Anjelica Huston, John Densmore, Frances Fisher, Wendie Malick and Richard Portnow.
“Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’ /
I was layin’ in bed /
Wonderin’ if she’d changed at all /
If her hair was still red.”
A first-look excerpt from Chris Morris’ candid memoir, “Together Through Life: A Personal Journey with the Music of Bob Dylan,” published on Dylan’s 75th birthday.
After a traumatic adolescence and seeking shelter in a “safe” life that no longer fit, writer Bernadette Murphy found her way back to her true self through risk taking. In a riveting excerpt and Q&A, she describes crossing paths with her childhood idol character, The Fonz, in a surprising way.
“I never told you that I saw you kissing her, that I watched you do it without hesitation, inching closer to her instead of backing away. I watched long enough to see her curl her fist under her chin to get more comfortable, the gesture natural and familiar, as if she had done it before.”
“I realized I was surviving on isolation, wounded and harboring, and that that does not make for very good love. Sometime after the bridge, I began to realize that I already knew everything I needed to know.”
Robin Rinaldi’s crafted, riveting and honest memoir, recently released in paperback, follows her self-ascribed, year-long open marriage project she felt compelled to undertake at the apex of midlife. The experience profoundly changed her, as a woman, writer and wife.
“I was 8 when my mom, brother and I rode the maiden voyage of the California Zephyr Dome-line train from our hometown in San Francisco to Los Angeles to start our new life. During the following years, I’d go to bed conjuring the youthful hope of that train ride so that my dreams could make it so.”
“I wept and screamed until finally I saw the path opened wide before me — freed from the attachment that had caused me suffering. I didn’t need a baby to be happy.”
Ridesharing may be an oversaturated market, but as Jonathan Tipton Meyers discovers, drivers and passengers are yearning for the same thing on the streets of Los Angeles: real, human connection.
When writer Matt Powell came back to L.A., he embarked on a noble, dying Angeleno tradition: the backbreaking, exhilarating thrill of driving and resuscitating a classic car. There was one problem — he didn’t know shit about cars.
“Indie — as in work for free?” I asked, but I didn’t wait for her answer. “You’re going to have to pay your own way back to L.A.”
“‘I’m talking to you, zebra.’ His words still reverberate, like sounds bouncing off the steep canyon walls.”
“As the Magic 8 Ball says:
‘All signs point to yes’
That you stole my Klonopin
I’m talking evidence not voodoo.”
“How did I get here? I was standing in a Capitol Records recording studio holding Sinatra’s microphone in my hand. I had dreamed about doing this all my life but I never really thought it would happen.”
A personal piece inspired by the words and people that do not exist in Confucius’ Analects.
“No sunscreen. No seat belts. No helmets, knee pads, cell phones or parents. Just free-wheelin’ with nary a care in the world.”
“At 4:15 a.m., January 17, 1994, I was asleep in my bed. At 4:20 a.m., I was awake, terrified and confused about how I had ended up feet from my bed on the floor of my closet.”
“The religion of the bus is superior to many others since its devotees, unlike those of other belief systems, are almost always rewarded, eventually. Even in Los Angeles, a bus does come.”
“‘Stanzi. You should know who you are,’ he said.
I shook my head, though he was right. But who was I? I held out my hands and pleaded with my eyes.”