|Left-to-Right: Lisa See, Naomi Hirahara, |
Hector Tobar, Lynell George, and Brighde Mullins
at "Exile and Place" in Tales from Two Cities
Photo by Gary Leonard
The second conference of Writing from California: Tales from Two Cities took place at the Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles from February 20-22, 2014 . This two-part conference in Northern and Southern California, offered insight into how writing - poetry, fiction, non-fiction, print and digital - in the state has been influenced by these regions of California.I enjoyed being an audience member in this conference, watching the dialogue unfold between writers and the regional focus on each session. One of my favorite panels was Exile and Place: Who Gets to Speak for L.A.? featuring Lisa See, Naomi Hirahara, Lynell George and Hector Tobar in conversation with Brighde Mullins. It's not every day you get to sit down and watch a group of established writers from Los Angeles talk about Los Angeles and how it has influenced their work. As an Angeleno writer, I was especially intrigued with the topics discussed in Exile and Place as the writers went through a thought-provoking discussion on how Los Angeles resonates in their writing.
The conversation was dominated by reflections of personal narratives, LA history, and the challenges of writing about the West Coast in an industry often dominated by East Coast thinking and familiarity. Tobar talked about how they've spent their entire careers "writing against the myth" offering the "ghost of streetcar tracks" as a symbol of the rapid change that is always occurring in Los Angeles. He also referred to the isolation of LA, but Hirahara countered this image with examples of deeply rooted communities and the separation that may result in language that causes "parallel worlds". George followed this discussion on cultural influences by describing a black L.A. that is very southern and how southern influences have become a part of an L.A. narrative. See - in reference to the waves of change that have occurred in L.A. - reflected on a "nostalgia for a place and people no longer here" using new vs. old Chinatown as an example. Lynell and See especially touched on the need to capture dialogues and stories that haven't been written down yet or will soon disappear with older generations.
You can see the full conversation through fora.tv below:
Exile and Place: Who Gets to Speak for L.A.? from The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West on FORA.tv
An archive of all videos from the conference are available on FORA.tv.
-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Editor