Wednesday, April 26; 7:00PM - 8:00PM
Reading the Western Landscape Community Book Discussion
Wednesday, April 26; 7:00PM - 8:00PM
About the Community Book Discussion
The Arboretum Library’s book group explores the portrayal of western North American landscape in fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry, letters, graphic novels, etc. The group generally, but not always, meets the last Wednesday of the month in the Arboretum Library or out on the Arboretum grounds, pandemic, weather and sunlight permitting. When the weather is good and disease rates are low, the group will meet outside in appropriate places in the gloriously, beautiful grounds of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden with appropriate social distancing and masking. The group leader will decide each month whether the meeting will be in-person (in the Arboretum Library or outside on the Arboretum grounds) or on Zoom.
The group uses a modified version of the Shared Inquiry™ method developed by the Great Books Foundation. The discussion is greatly enhanced if the chosen book of the month is read, although we welcome those who just want to listen. Let the host know you want to listen. New participants are always welcome!
Click here to see the questions already asked for this year’s past books and check out the history of the book club by hovering on the tab and see all the previous years and books to explore.
For more information and to be added to the e-mail reminder list about the Community Book Discussion Group, please contact, Arboretum Librarian Emeritus, Susan Eubank, at Susan.Eubank@Arboretum.org. You must RSVP to Susan for the discussions you would like to attend.
May 24, 2023, 7:00 pm
Spell Heaven by Toni Mirosevich, Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, CA, 2022.
“What happens when a lesbian couple—a college professor and a nurse—decide to forsake the expensive city and move a few miles south to Seaview, a foggy coastal town in Northern California where homes are affordable but some neighbors far from welcoming?…In lyrical, often shimmering, language, Mirosevich finds meaning and memory in the lives lived by the “confused” sea, the name, she explains, given to the sea when waves go back and forth on a windy day. “Confused but still beautiful,” the narrator insists. These stories both comfort and surprise. You will want to read them over and over again, like waves going back and forth, revealing something new each time.”— Elaine Elinson, New York Journal of Books
A collection of linked stories that celebrate those who relish human connection in an increasingly isolated world. Stories include the tale of an undocumented boy’s drowning when a wave pulls him out to sea, an ex-FBI agent’s surveillance of a man who leaves chocolate bars at a tree in a weekly ritual, a mother on meth who teaches a lesson on mercy, and Kite Man, who flies kites from a fishing pole and sells drugs on the side. His motto: When the kites fly, you can buy.
June 28, 2023
Selected Verse: A Bilingual Edition, revised. by Federico Garcia Lorca; Edited by Christopher Mauer, Translated by Catherine Brown, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c2004.
The entire poetic spectrum of Spain’s greatest modern poet and dramatist is showcased in this new bilingual anthology. Lorca (1898-1937) drew upon his country’s rich and sonorous musical tradition for inspiration, and his early poems are spellbindingly beautiful, animated with the sweet breath of the Andalusian land he loved so much and lit with images and metaphors as bright and quick as birds. … [Lorca] scholar Maurer has chosen well from all 10 of Lorca’s published poetry collections as well as from a selection of previously uncollected works, and the translations are superb.— Donna Seaman, Booklist
Selected verse from the poet who “expanded the scope of lyric poetry” (Rafael Campo, The Washington Post). The work of Federico García Lorca, Spain’s greatest modernist poet, has long been admired for its emotional intensity and metaphorical brilliance. The revised Selected Verse, which incorporates changes made to García Lorca’s Collected Poems, is an essential addition to any poetry lover’s bookshelf. In this bilingual edition, García Lorca’s poetic range comes clearly into view, from the playful Suites and stylized evocations of Andalusia to the utter gravity and mystery of the final elegies, confirming his stature as one of the twentieth century’s finest poets.
July 26, 2023, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by
“… 60-year-old, strong-willed widow Vera Wong discovers a body with a flash drive in its hand in her tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown. …Vera is thrilled to delve into detective work when a handful of people who knew [the deceased] come into her shop looking for information. …Seeing them as potential suspects, Vera lures them with her distinctive teas and cooking, developing genuine friendships with each one, but also easily able to sniff out their lies. The engrossing plot, which is full of laugh out loud humor and heartfelt moments, builds to a satisfying conclusion that will leave readers eager for more Vera.”— Publishers Weekly
A lonely shopkeeper takes it upon herself to solve a murder in the most peculiar way in this captivating mystery by Jesse Q. Sutanto, bestselling author of Dial A for Aunties. Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady–ah, lady of a certain age–who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her Gen-Z son is up to. Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing–a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera doesn’t know what comes over her, but after calling the cops like any good citizen would, she sort of . . . swipes the flash drive from the body and tucks it safely into the pocket of her apron. Why? Because Vera is sure she would do a better job than the police possibly could, because nobody sniffs out a wrongdoing quite like a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands. Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer. What Vera does not expect is to form friendships with her customers and start to care for each and every one of them. As a protective mother hen, will she end up having to give one of her newfound chicks to the police?
August 23, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
Picture by Lillian Ross, Foreword by by Angelica Houston, Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2002, ©1952.
“Ross … explores the inner life of an artist, in an attempt to illuminate the mysteries of the art itself. Picture is more than a deeply reported view of the power struggles of Hollywood filmmaking; it’s a fine-grained study in one very idiosyncratic set of personalities whose blend was toxic—… But Ross also sees exceptional and forward-looking individuals who put their livelihoods on the line, even in a losing battle, for their confidence in personal creation. …Ross’s portrait of cinematic conflict and compromise yields, in passing, a portrait of true artistry in movies that stands untarnished to this day.”— Richard Brody, New Yorker
In the spring of 1950, when New Yorker staff writer Lillian Ross heard that John Huston was planning to make a film of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, she decided she would follow the movie’s progress “in order to learn whatever I might learn about the American motion-picture industry.” What resulted was Picture, which Newsweek has called “the best book on Hollywood ever published.” Picture received raves from the worlds of film and literature in equal measure for its unforgettable portrait of the language, the ways, and the preoccupations of Hollywood: Charlie Chaplin called Picture “brilliant and sagacious” and legendary editor William Shawn termed it “the definitive book on the Hollywood community.” Little wonder, then, that when the Top 100 Works of U.S. Journalism of the Twentieth Century were chosen by the New York University Department of Journalism and a distinguished panel that included David Brinkley, Pete Hamill, Jeff Greenfield, Mary McGrory, and Morley Safer,Picture had an honored place on that list.
September 27, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies by Reyner Banham; New York: Harper & Row, 1971.
“I certainly wasted no time in absorbing Banham’s view of Los Angeles when first I lived there… He provided the most coherent set of answers by far to the question about the city… “Why is it like this?” Many Angelenos have asked the same, … though often out of exasperation, even resentment; I asked out of an increasingly all-consuming fascination that did a great deal to motivate my move in the first place. But before one can address that question, one must define what it means to be “like this,” a diagnosis no two observers of such an expansive, varied, and troubled city as Los Angeles will make in quite the same way. Whether one agrees or disagrees, the enthusiastic and erudite descriptions collected in [the book] have come to form a background for the discussion.” — Colin Marshall, Archinect
Reyner Banham examined the built environment of Los Angeles in a way no architectural historian before him had done, looking with fresh eyes at its manifestations of popular taste and industrial ingenuity, as well as its more traditional modes of residential and commercial building. His construct of “four ecologies” examined the ways Angelenos relate to the beach, the freeways, the flatlands, and the foothills. Banham delighted in this mobile city and identified it as an exemplar of the posturban future.
October 25, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
Resisting Change in Suburbia: Asian Immigrants and Frontier Nostalgia in L.A. by James Zarsadiaz, Oakland: University of California Press, 2022.
2023 Lawrence W. Levine Award Winner, Organization of American Historians Between the 1980s and the first decade of the twenty-first century, Asian Americans in Los Angeles moved toward becoming a racial majority in the communities of the East San Gabriel Valley. By the late 1990s, their “model minority” status resulted in greater influence in local culture, neighborhood politics, and policies regarding the use of suburban space. In the “country living” subdivisions, which featured symbols of Western agrarianism including horse trails, ranch fencing, and Spanish colonial architecture, white homeowners encouraged assimilation and enacted policies suppressing unwanted “changes”–that is, increased density and influence of Asian culture. While some Asian suburbanites challenged whites’ concerns, many others did not. Rather, white critics found support from affluent Asian homeowners who also wished to protect their class privilege and suburbia’s conservative Anglocentric milieu. In Resisting Change in Suburbia, award-winning historian James Zarsadiaz explains how myths of suburbia, the American West, and the American Dream informed regional planning, suburban design, and ideas about race and belonging.– Publisher’s description
November 29, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth, New York: Random House, 1986.
“… Written in seemingly effortless light verse, a sequence of sonnets, Seth tells the story of John and Janet, two California twentysomethings in quest of love, personal gratification and the meaning of life. Set in the affluence and sunshine of Silicon Valley in the years immediately before the dot.com boom, The Golden Gate manages to be at once romantic, pleasantly sentimental and yet deeply satirical about the spaced-out hedonism of California’s beautiful yuppies. When it was published, [it] was singled out as a remarkable tour de force and praised for its light comic touch, its parodic elegance and its speedy way with narrative. Now, … generation[s] later, it reads like a strangely elegiac portrait of a lost world of innocence before the corruptions of the Nineties boom and the psychological devastation of 11 September. — The Guardian
“At once a bittersweet love story, a wickedly funny novel of manners and an unsentimental meditation on mortality and the nuclear abyss. Always witty–and still profound–the book paints a truthful picture of our dreadful, comic times.” —Vanity Fair “A splendid achievement, equally convincing in its exhilaration and its sadness.” —The New York Times “The great California novel has been written in verse (and why not?):The Golden Gate gives great joy.” –Gore Vidal From the Trade Paperback edition.
December 27, 2023, 7:00 p.m.
A Calm & Normal Heart: Stories by Chelsea T. Hicks Los Angeles: The Unnamed Press, 2022.
“In [this] striking debut collection of stories, … characters from the Osage diaspora travel the continent looking for home. In prose that’s sharp and funny by turns, Hicks depicts families fractured by American colonialism, patriarchy, and racism. [She] has written a beautiful book, especially valuable for offering Osage readers their world in print. Osages will try to identify situations, and they’ll compare details with the histories that were passed down in their own families. Spiders and their webs are a recurring motif, the ancient woman’s symbol, calling us all home. A Calm & Normal Heart is a gift for Osages and readers of all kinds.”— Ruby Hansen Murray, Los Angeles Review of Books
“Chelsea T. Hicks’ deadpan dexterous wit can make you laugh and cry in the space of a heartbeat. A Calm and Normal Heart is the book I’ve been waiting for–;audacious, tender, and fiercely committed.”;–Louise Erdrich, author of The Sentence
“A Calm & Normal Heart is sharp, sexy, and endlessly surprising. An electric blend of playfulness and intensity in Hicks’s prose ignites her characters’ desires. Their stories dazzle and are to be savored. This is a gorgeous collection!”–Deesha Philyaw; National Book Award finalist and author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“The stories in Chelsea Hicks’s A Calm & Normal Heart are full of quiet truths and wry, soulful secrets. It is a book that doesn’t at all feel like a debut story collection, but rather written with startling beauty and the flawless precision of a master storyteller. It is a genuine page-turner full of sentences so beautiful they demand re-reading.”–Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of; The Removed From Oklahoma to California. The heroes of A Calm & Normal Heart are modern-day adventurers–seeking out new places to call their own inside a nation to which they do not entirely belong. A member of the Osage tribe, author Chelsea T. Hicks’ stories are compelled by an overlooked diaspora happening inside America itself: that of young Native people. In stories like “Superdrunk,” “Tsexope,” and “Wets’a,” iPhone lifestyles co-mingle with ancestral connection, strengthening relationships or pushing people apart, while generational trauma haunts individual paths. Broken partnerships and polyamorous desire signal a fraught era of modern love, even as old ways continue to influence how people assess compatibility. And in “By Alcatraz,” a Native student finds herself alone on campus over Thanksgiving break, seeking out new friendships during a national holiday she does not recognize. Leaping back in time, “A Fresh Start Ruined” inhabits the life of Florence, an Osage woman attempting to hide her origins while social climbing in midcentury Oklahoma. And in “House of RGB” a young professional settles into a new home, intent on claiming her independence after a break-up, even if her ancestors can’t seem to get out of her way; Whether in between college semesters or jobs, on the road to tribal dances or escaping troubled homes, the characters of A Calm & Normal Heart occupy a complicated and often unreliable terrain. Chelsea T. Hicks brings sharp humor, sprawling imagination, and a profound connection to Native experience in a collection that will subvert long-held assumptions for many readers, and inspire hope along the way.