Never heard of East LA’s famous airship service? That’s because this story is fictional – Orange County Register

Some of the reproduced images that you will find in the book “ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Line” are out of focus and low resolution, and that is by design.

“When you are dealing with historical material, it won’t be very clear,” Alhambra poet and writer Sesshu Foster said during a recent video call with his collaborator, artist Arturo Romo.

“ELADATL”, which refers to the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines, recalls a time in Los Angeles history when airships crisscrossed the city sky, and yes, it is completely invented, an illustrated book and entirely fictional, released April 6 from City Lights Books, about an airline service set in an alternate history of Los Angeles.

To add to the book’s sense of reality, Romo has constructed a visual archive of illustrations, photographs (often edited), grainy reproductions, mimeographed texts, diagrams and more that create a sense of verisimilitude in the narrative.

“To do that, to make it compelling, or maybe make it ironic or anachronistic, you have to adopt different styles from different eras and then fit into them,” says Lincoln Heights-based Romo of the range of visual art in the book.

Foster says these blurry images underscore that the story itself isn’t always clear; it is full of holes that academics often try to fill and popular stories that may not be fact. And so, these images have another purpose. “And it also asks the reader to think about why it’s not clear,” says Foster. “What is not clear about this? “

Foster says his writing aims to “create tension” between the story people think they know and the story that has often been obscured. “Fiction challenges dominant narratives,” he says.

  • Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Romo created the alternative story “ELADATL”. (Courtesy of City Lights Books)

  • Writer Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Romo created the alternative story “ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”. (Images courtesy of City Lights Books)

  • Writer Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Romo created the alternative story “ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”. (Images courtesy of City Lights Books)

  • Writer Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Romo created the alternative story “ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”. (Images courtesy of City Lights Books)

  • Writer Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Romo created the alternative story “ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”. (Images courtesy of City Lights Books)

  • Writer Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Romo created the alternative story “ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”. (Images courtesy of City Lights Books)

  • Writer Sesshu Foster and artist Arturo Romo created the alternative story “ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines”. (Images courtesy of City Lights Books)

All of this is meant to conjure up a story as true in Los Angeles as it is imaginatively made. “People live with a place through their dreams and through their own fictions about their life and their dreams about their own life,” explains Romo.

“At least for me, the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, and real and non-real, is an artificial distinction when we try to engage with ourselves, our historical selves and our inner worlds with a place,” adds. he does. “When we try to belong to a place and find a belonging to a place, we use all these faculties and the distinction between fiction and non-fiction does not make so much sense. “

The book contains references to real and existing local venues, like the downtown concert hall The Smell and the Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park Paul’s Kitchen, and includes nods to real people and bands, such as the late artist Noah Purifoy and the activist collective Food Not Bombs. All of this intertwines in an intriguing speculative fiction that closely resembles the city Angelenos knows.

Foster and Romo are longtime collaborators. “I think one of our first collaborations was by correspondence,” says Romo, who remembers reading Foster’s 1996 book of poetry “City Terrace Field Manual”, sending him drawings and receiving writings in return. on the pictures. “It sparked a dynamic between us, where I produced an image that he would write on, and I produced an image based on that writing.”

This ultimately led to a project called ELA Guide, a website that provided maps and guides for tours of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. “ELADATL” is an extension of this project.

“The book is a fictionalized take on what we were doing in other non-fictional ways,” says Foster.

For the couple, it creates a narrative that centers the lives of residents of east Los Angeles and surrounding areas in the foreground.

“Everyone in East LA grew up in the shadow of Hollywood, where Hollywood creates, for the imagination of the whole world, all kinds of tales about superheroes, private investigators, cops and romance or the film noir, ”he says. “It’s this whole industry that continually disseminates these stories, but, for those of us who grew up in East LA, none of these stories have ever dealt centrally with the lives and experiences of the people here in the same town. “

So they built these stories around communities that have been historically neglected.

“The fictional part is rewriting ourselves in the story that we knew we were still a part of,” Romo explains.


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