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Book Analyzes Chicano, Latino Film and Fiction in Los Angeles

January 28, 2011

UC Merced Professor Ignacio López-Calvo’s “Latino Los Angeles in Film and Fiction: The Cultural Production of Social Anxiety” will be published on Feb. 1 by the University of Arizona Press.

López-Calvo’s fifth single-authored book deals with the imaging of Los Angeles in Latino literature and film, and the images of Latinos in Los Angeles literature and film. It also looks at the literary and cultural representation of white anxiety in the Los Angeles metropolitan area because of the massive arrival of Latino immigrants and refugees.

The question he asks in the book is, “What is the source of this racial anxiety that conceives Latino immigration as a social pathology?”

Xenophobia and nativism, he said, are by no means exclusive to California, but there is no doubt that the massive arrival of Latinos in recent decades and the resulting changes in human and cultural landscapes have contributed to exacerbate these feelings.

López-Calvo explained in the introduction that the book is partly about his journey to discover a Los Angeles that was more meaningful than Hollywood and other clichés. He taught at California State University, Los Angeles, from 1997 to 2005 and was initially disappointed with a city he imagined would be filled with possibilities.

He wanted to learn more about the city where he had been living after hearing his students’ stories about their lives and after reading literature about the Latino experience in Southern California.

“Book after book, story after story, and experience after experience opened the door to a world and an urban history that finally began to make some sense,” López-Calvo writes.

UC Riverside Professor Mike Davis wrote that the book is a wonderful, and at times revelatory, construction of the debate about the meaning and future of Los Angeles.

“As López-Calvo shows so ironically, behind every stereotyped image of the Eastside is the reality of a pueblo rich with hope and courage for the future,” Davis wrote.