I want to know the history of the city without a history
April 9, 2013 12:03 PM Subscribe
Please recommend some books about the history of Southern California. I'm specifically interested in the evolution of car culture and the L.A. area as a cultural incubator.
posted by Sara C. to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
The backstory: I work out of a house in the San Fernando valley that was built in the 40's. I was sitting around at lunch yesterday, shooting the shit, and started wondering aloud what Southern California was like before the freeways.
If you lived in Van Nuys or Sherman Oaks in the 40's, what was your life like? What did you do for a living, and where would that be located? How did you get there? When were all the suburban developments in that area created, anyway? Is a house built in the 40's the oldest house in the neighborhood? What was it like before the 'burbs?
I want to know all about the history of Southern California, especially during the 20th century. Mainly in the evolution of car culture and SoCal as a sort of archetypal post-war suburban environment, especially in a pop cultural sense. Everything from drag racing in the LA River basin to the Beach Boys to donut shops with giant donuts on the roof.
I know that there are primary sources in the media for this sort of thing. Raymond Chandler, movies like Rebel Without A Cause and Valley Girl, etc. I wouldn't mind recommendations for things like that, but what I really want is non-fiction. Preferably history, but possibly also sociology or anthropology.
Podcasts, documentaries, and other non-fiction media are also fine. I already listen to 99% Invisible, which has fueled my interest in how the suburban car-centric landscape came about and shaped people's lives. The LA Times website has been a pretty good source of information about this sort of thing, but I want to go deeper.
I am less interested in the history of Hollywood, but I'd be into historical writings about the film industry as they relate to Los Angeles as a city. When did the studios move out to the Valley, and what brought about those changes, for example?
I am not really as interested in historical works about 19th century Los Angeles, though if a work spans the Spanish/Mexican period and goes into the 20th century, that would be OK.
I am also not terribly interested in essays and cultural commentary from people who are not historians. I have read a lot of Joan Didion already.
What are the go-to historical writings about 20th century Southern California?