The Girls in My Town: Essays

Angela Morales's The Girls in My Town is a collection of striking, lovely essays about her upbringing in Los Angeles. Vignettes paint a number of vivid scenes: her parents' appliance store, and the bowling alley where she went to escape it; an elementary school where the girls demanded to be allowed to wash dishes like the boys; a room where a grandmother lay dying, as generations of children ran laps in the yard outside; the community college where Morales teaches remedial English to an ex-con with a pitiable past. These portraits, and the characterization of a larger Los Angeles, form a sense of place that enlivens and colors the collection.

Themes include family, and the changes seen over generations, as in Morales's journey from daughter to mother, and in telling her grandparents' stories. Recurring patterns of teen pregnancy, violence against women and girls and the fear it inspires add a tone of somber musing. A series of animal characters--the pet dogs of the author's childhood, her own children's pet rats, a mountain lion in the hills--bring layers to a setting both urban and wild, becoming dreamlike on her pre-dawn bike rides. Morales has a strong, lyrical voice, and her essays and anecdotes can be humorous and loving and darkly meditative as they address family, beauty and violence, loss and love. In short, this collection is as varied, charming, stark and inspiring as life itself, in Los Angeles or anywhere. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

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