Books That Inspire 2001

Chavez Ravine, 1949: A Los Angeles Story
Don Normak

I hate Los Angeles and I love Los Angeles. I hate the Los Angeles of popular imagination, a place of plastic surgeons, BMWs, and “armed patrol” warning signs on every front lawn. It is epitomized in the real world by what locals call the West Side. It is the rest of Los Angeles that captivates me. It is a place largely unknown, that Reyner Banham called “The Plains of Id.” He found it uninviting, but I am enthralled by its diversity, its haphazardness, its fluidity. To me, it is the comparative lack of ego in Banham’s “endless” flatlands that makes Los Angeles endlessly fascinating. Chavez Ravine, 1949 is an intimate portrait of a tiny portion of that Los Angeles, a working-class community that was (ultimately) demolished so a baseball stadium could be built. Don Normark photographed the neighborhood in exquisite black and white, and later tracked down one-time residents and asked them to reflect on their former home. The result is an invigorating fusion of image and word that, more than any other book I know, demonstrates the power of place. To turn its pages is to discover a new world.
Blake Gumprecht
Lecturer Geography