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Publisher's Summary

Irreverently juggling magical realism, film noir, hip hop, and chicanismo, Tropic of Orange takes place in a Los Angeles where the homeless, gangsters, infant organ entrepreneurs, and Hollywood collide on a stretch of the Harbor Freeway. Hemmed in by wildfires, it's a symphony conducted from an overpass, grandiose, comic, and as diverse as the city itself - from an author who has received the California Book Award and the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award, among other literary honors.

©1997, 2017 Karen Tei Yamashita; Introduction copyright 2017 by Sesshu Foster (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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  • Jamie L.
  • 12-04-2020

Hard to follow

I kept waiting for the moment that all of the side stories would come together - they didn't. I kept waiting to understand the symbolism of the orange and the stretching of space and time - I couldn't find it. This book had some intriguing characters and potential to understand a few sub cultural groups in LA, but it somehow got lost and never came together.

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  • Hana
  • 30-03-2021

How can I make this story makes sense

Either my brain is too small to comprehend this complex story of metaphors or this is a written representation of an acid trip. I am very thankful this was on audible so I didn't have to read it. I was only able to keep my sanity because of the narrator and her wonderful performance of different character voices.

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  • Mark P. Brada
  • 23-11-2020

Excellent reading of one of the best books every written about LA

The narrator did a good job with the very different voices in this book. This is a complex but well loved book. First time readers/listeners may need to go more slowly or repeat sections as the fantastic, magical imagination of Yamashita, heavily informed by the history of the Americas, may be a lot to absorb by ear. Including the preface and epigraphs was helpful.

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  • BK Littman
  • 24-08-2020

Apocalyptic Traffic Jam in 90’s Los Angeles, CA

Tropic of Orange is a strange book. It takes place in Southern California and in Mexico during the 1990’s - the era of NAFTA and California State Proposition 187. (Proposition 187 would’ve eliminated state funded services to undocumented people. It was passed by ballot initiative vote but it was never enacted into law).

Some of the characters are very interesting. Buzzworm, who is in recovery, has almost mystical wisdom and power. Through his eyes, we see the beauty of palm trees and his impoverished neighborhood. Buzzworm works tirelessly to get the stories and concerns of the homeless people noticed and heard. He does this through a naturally high Q-Rating and a string of alliances, one of which is with a local newspaper reporter, Gabriel.

Gabriel has a girlfriend, Emi who works in television. Emi seems to be a derivative caricature of another caricature, Diana Christenson from the 1976 film, Network. Like Diana, Emi is cynical - a product of too much consumerism and too much voyeurism.

There is a pair of superhuman characters representing NAFTA and The NAFTA Opposition. They fight to the death in an arena. A few of the other other characters are in the audience. The characters also include many shades of villains, domestics, and other types of residents and workers.

This book is a work of magical realism. Time and space are bent and stretched by magic. There are surreal animals and situations. The orange fruit itself is exploited and eventually feared, regulated, and replaced. The border and the Equator are portrayed by a filament- a white billowy line. One of the characters carries an impossibly full suitcase and is able to thread things through the stigmatas in his body,

The magic of the story is heavily burdened by the overall writing style. The book contains many long lists of phrases and adjectives. For example:

“Check it out, ése. You know this story? Yeah, over at Sanitary Supply they always tell it. This dude drives up, drives up to Sanitary. Makes a pickup like always. You know. Paper towels. Rags. Mop handles. Gallon of Windex. Stuff like that. Drives up in a Toyota pickup. Black shiny deal, all new, big pinche wheels. Very nice. Yeah. Asian dude. Kinda skinny. Short, yeah. But so what?”

I was not enjoying the writing style; however the characters and hints of a possible plot kept me engaged. I wanted to see where all of this was going. Unfortunately, the book just stops. After assaultng the reader repeatedly with her political views, the author fails to make any choices about what she would like the world to be. I wish the author had chosen one or two story lines and taken them to a focused conclusion with a meaningful insight or bit of wisdom.

The Audible audio performance by Emily Woo Zeller is masterful. She portrays each character very well with her voice. Her command of her craft definitely adds to the enjoyment of this work.

Students and fans of the author will love this book. Folks who hated NAFTA will also love it.

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