What is it about California that makes the state such a compelling setting for a novel? Is it the gorgeous Pacific coast, with the blue of the ocean stretching as far as the eye can see? Is it the celebrity culture of Hollywood, sparkling with glamor and false happiness? Is it the gritty LAPD, the beautiful diversity of cultures, the charming warm weather? Crack open any one of these Californian indies, all reviewed in our Spring 2015 issue, and find out.
Busman makes her gritty characters’ experiences specific yet universal, to expose the difficulties of lower-class women. Uniquely blending first-, second-, and third-person narration, Debra Busman jumps around in time and place to tell the gritty, engrossing story of a Caucasian girl named Taylor. Like a Woman poignantly chronicles Taylor’s growth from abused youngster to street-smart, tough, yet drug-addled survivor. A middle-school dropout, she possesses an amazing amount of wisdom born out of experience.
This highly readable, triumphant tale deserves a place on any music lover’s and book lover’s shelf. Joey Woodman is born into a poor Sacramento family in the 1930s. At the age of nine, he begs his mother to take him to the symphony after a classmate taunts him about his inability to afford the tickets. It is then that Joey knows he is born to be a musician, and the trombone becomes his instrument of choice.
A coming-of-age story of survival traces the experience of a rebellious Japanese American boy in heartbreaking yet captivating ways. Gene Oishi’s Fox Drum Bebop features the young Hiroshi Kono and his family as they move from Hacienda, California, to a camp in the Arizona desert and back again, after which life is not the same.
Plus One provides a comic view of Hollywood excesses, but at its heart is a family reclaiming what’s important. This novel describes a family struck by sudden good fortune in Hollywood. It’s a laugh-out-loud, big-hearted novel of a marriage threatened by the success of the wife while the husband scrambles to find his place.
This novel is a sincere exploration of the struggles people go through trying to survive and do right, while still holding on to their dreams. Maya and Danny Johnson have all but given up on their dreams. After a decade of scraping together rent, battling the odds against success in the art world—she as a painter, he as a playwright—and trying to raise two kids in a cramped LA apartment on his substitute-teaching salary, the couple finally decide they can’t continue pursuing the bohemian life they had in mind.
This author stands out as one unafraid to be sensitive as well as adventurous. An ex-convict turned detective for the LAPD, Bruno Johnson is a man who puts justice above all else, raising eight children he rescued from abusive situations. After moving to Costa Rica to escape his old life, he is approached by a former colleague, the Montclair, California, chief of police. It seems his worst nightmare has come true; that is, until his visitor states her purpose, that she needs help in a kidnapping case.
Aimee Jodoin is deputy editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @aimeebeajo.