Saturday, June 8, 2019

Book Review: California Continuum

California Continuum: Volume One: Migrations and Amalgamations by Grant Hier and John Brantingham, Pelekinesis, 2019, $20.00, 250 pages.

Click here to buy online
California Continuum takes readers on a non-linear journey through 13,000 years of California history. Authors Grant Hier and John Brantingham use flash fiction and short stories to distill the history of the Golden State to its essential elements.

Each story is astute, compelling, and engaging. One moment you’re with Juan, who works two jobs back-to-back to support his own family plus family members left behind in Mexico. The next, you’re with Ed, a Buffalo Soldier in the Indian Wars—“This world was never made with the idea of Ed in it. There is no place for Ed in a world where they cut down giant trees.” And the next moment, you’re with a woman by the sea honoring the sand—“How she loves her family, her clan. Like a nest floating on the sea.” 

There are Vietnamese refugees, Zoot Suit Riots, residents of Japanese internment camps, convicts leaving prison, and repo men. There are the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and the First Baptist Church Choir trading show tunes and gospel songs. There are the survivors and victims of California wildfires. There’s a young woman with hopes for a new life who ends up working as a prostitute, and another woman who rides the train away from an abusive husband. There are family secrets, and more.

I was impressed repeatedly by the details of people’s thoughts and actions. This put me into their stories instead of being an observer. Also, the stories humanized each situation and its impact on nature or politics. California is a land of indigenous peoples, migrants, settlers, and priests. These stories are gateways to understanding cultures and generations, past and present.

In “Disheveled,” Kate and Kevin deal with the aftermath of a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. “It looks like a bomb went off,” Kate says when she first sees the damage to the library where they work. Kevin puts out a call for help, and volunteers arrive to reshelf books. Their friend Peter observes how the books represent people from every nation on earth, and how their stories are continuously taken in, one book at a time, one line at a time, becoming part of the rest of us.

Readers can draw their own conclusions about the land and their own connections with the human condition, ranging from cruelty, sorrow, and justice to vision and hope. Whatever the emotional temperature, Hier and Brantingham capture the uniqueness of this place called California.

Click here to purchase California Continuum online.

Review By Cindy Rinne
Cindy Rinne creates art and writes in San Bernardino, CA. She brings myth to life in contemporary context. She is the author and artist behind Moon Of Many Petals from Cholla Needles (2018)

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