Inter State: Essays from California

In his debut collection, Inter State: Essays from California, poet and playwright José Vadi delves into the metaphysical terrain of his home state, "a place many fantasize about but few experience." Vadi is a third-generation Mexican and Puerto RicanCalifornian who grew up in Pomona and graduated from UC Berkeley, the son of a college professor and grandson of a migrant farmworker. His rambling, frenetic odysseys along California's byways reveal the scope of his profound connection to a state he feels sure he will never leave, despite the many unsettling paradoxes that define it.

Lingering in the remote enclaves of California's Central Valley, Vadi teases out the vestiges of a buried cultural history that nonetheless remains achingly visible. "I find a brand-new city park across the street from a large field with laborers actively and steadily picking up and down the rows." In Oakland and San Francisco, Vadi is unsparing, describing a sea of insular tech industry transplants "in a force field of privilege, keeping their noses and chins afloat, their devices instructing them where to drink... and how to algorithmically get there."

The mournfulness of these passages is offset by rhapsodic memories of skateboarding hangouts in downtown Los Angeles and fruit trees in family backyards. The ever-presence of history is both a blessing and a curse for Vadi--a reminder of everything that has been lost to California's endless cycle of gentrification and racial displacement, as well as an affirmation of fundamental realities no colonizing force could ever hope to erase. --Devon Ashby, sales & marketing assistant, Shelf Awareness

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