Synopses & Reviews
In this substantial selection of her occasional journalism, poet Wanda Coleman has judiciously reshaped articles, essays, interviews and columns written over three decades (for, among other places, the Los Angeles Times. L.A. Weekly and The Free Press) into a nearly-seamless personal narrative: "a tour through the restless emotional topography of Los Angeles as glimpsed through the scattered fragments of my living memory".
This book follows in the footsteps or freeway tracks of such classic Los Angeles portraitists as John Fante, Carey McWilliams, and Nathanael West, not missing the seamy side of town, or its caricature dimensions: "a glitter queen with 5 o'clock shadow whose lovers don't care what sins have been committed... Loving you is an S&M trip. You gave birth to me. And while I love you for that I hate you for the painful afterbirth... Loving your horizons while hating your gutters. Your obscenely glorious fall skies that redden as deeply as any earthbound passion. The sun a big luscious lick. A visual bliss ozoning. Soon to be followed by a moon to swoon for, heavy and broad like the exposed doughy thigh of a tired old Hollywood harlot".
Coleman's tough-minded, high-voltage, straight-from-the-hip commentaries can be read as a manual on urban survival, a guide to navigating "the margins defined by poverty and race, presuming no escape". The object lesson in the tale is Coleman's own life -- a tale of grit and determination, of growing up black and poor in South Central L. A. ("I was big and dark and ugly in a world that did not value me") and living to tell about it. From piece to piece we find the author laboring as waitress, bartender, pink collar corporate slave, editorof a sleazy men's magazine, while caught up in militant revolutionary politics, or witnessing the Watts and Rodney King riots. The triumph implicit in the stow is Coleman's escape into her true calling, that of poetry.