Love and hate often are intermingled, creating an ambivalence that can be just as strong. The house I live in is located in a neighborhood that was first built in the early 1940s. Initially, the neighborhood was made up of four or five floorplans, so many houses still differ only in paint color and landscaping. The homes were built for the families of soldiers charged with guarding American citizens unjustly detained at Santa Anita Race Track before being sent to Japanese internment camps.
During the last decade or so, these wartime houses have given way to larger ones in a proliferation of new development. It’s eerie watching a home identical to my own being stripped to its bones and disappearing to be replaced by grander architecture.
We learned about the neighborhood’s history when we moved here in the mid-90s. It was the first house our family was able to own, so for us it symbolized a significant step into the middle class. While I love our home and the memories it holds of our family, I’m also uneasy about these positive associations because I know the reason these houses were constructed.
These older houses are almost palimpsests, symbolizing many different periods in the neighborhood’s history. Now, another layer of complexity is being added. As we remember the history of their origins, it’s then a good thing for houses that symbolize oppression to be replaced with something new. Because when we’re nostalgic for a building that enabled the persecution of American citizens, what are we really celebrating?
“Tract Home Take Down” was inspired by the detached loss I feel for buildings that housed such a sinister past.
* * *
A house like ours
is a pile of rubble
is a new foundation
is a giant skeleton
is a mess of noises
is an empty stucco signifier
is a nameless neighbor
is a neighborhood renewed
is a house no more.
Rachel Sona Reed was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley but truly began appreciating Los Angeles about five years ago. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Reed College and an M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, where she studied human-bovine relationships. Her work has appeared in “The Rumpus,” “Rose City Sisters” and “Anthropology & Aging,” and she writes stories about inanimate objects for a small audience of newsletter subscribers.