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Orange County: A Personal History Paperback – November 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers get two stories for the price of one in this witty and informative memoir. Journalist Arellano (¡Ask a Mexican!) chronicles the sweet-and-sour story of his family's assimilation into American culture, while also recounting a historical narrative at odds with the bucolic ideal of a place that's been mythologized for decades. We're so American, so Orange County, that we're even prone to romanticize a past that never existed. Arellano's structure keeps the narrative moving along at a snappy pace, alternating the threads of the story so odd chapters constitute the memoir, even chapters tell the history, and one complements the other. Readers get solid background on the beginning of master-planned communities during the 1920s, the little remembered Citrus War, Orange County's embarrassing 1994 bankruptcy and special mix of conservatism coupled with a dollop of big-time religion. A 2005 Harper's article named Orange County the country's second hotbed of evangelical Christianity after Colorado Springs, Arellano writes, and of the 100 megachurches in the U.S. with the largest congregations, four are in Orange County. Arellano explores a place he calls the Petri dish for America's continuing democratic experiment and delivers a prescient view of the new American landscape. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Gustavo Arellano’s ¡Ask a Mexican! column has a circulation of more than two million in thirty-eight markets (and counting). He has received the President’s Award from the Los Angeles Press Club, an Impact Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and a 2008 Latino Spirit Award from the California State legislature. Arellano has appeared on the Today show, Nightline, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and The Colbert Report. For more information, visit

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (November 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416540059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416540052
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,021,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gustavo Arellano is a staff writer with OC Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Orange County, California, and a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Op/Ed pages. He writes 'Ask a Mexican!,' a nationally syndicated column in which he answers any and all questions about America's spiciest and largest minority. The column has a weekly circulation of 1.8 million in 28 newspapers across the United States, won the 2006 Association of Alternative Weeklies award for Best Column, and was published in book form by Scribner Press. Gustavo is also the recipient of the Los Angeles Press Club's 2007 President's Award. Gustavo lives in Anaheim.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Simon Burrow VINE VOICE on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While most writing and almost all journalism is attempting to make their subjects less complex Gustavo Arellano is accepting the complexity and relishing it. His book "Orange County' is a wonderfully complex story of his family, its migration, the towns where they settled, the history of the towns and the strange paradox that is Orange County, California. There are very funny repetitions of lists of Aunts (I think he's mocking Leviticus) the story of his being a nerd among the macho and constant jibes at the gabachos. My favorite part was the restaurant recommendations , one for each town except Leisure World.
This is the perfect book to give as a Christmas gift to anyone with a sense of humor who lives in Orange County. It is a quick read, it has new data and will make you think again about the place you live.
Well done!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W. A. Nericcio on January 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a native born South Texan, I never gave California much thought till I came out to teach here in the early 90s. Since then I have been blown away by the beauty and horrors of a magnificent state--staggered by its resources and its peoples, floored by its violent and surprising history. Gustavo Arellano's ORANGE COUNTY is one of those delicious, honest tomes that tells the various ugly, outrageous, AND beautiful stories of southern California with wit, vision, pace, and style. A unique book--one part memoir, one part history, one part investigative journalism--Arellano's volume explores the backstory of the Southlands, uncovering skeletons, crazies, and, of course, oranges along the way. Any student of contemporary writing will find much to learn from and ponder in this volume; Californiana aficionados will find that and more, as the all-too-often white-washed contours of the Californias are reborn in the electric writings of the man better known as Ask a Mexican.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Bookhounds VINE VOICE on March 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a great story combining the history of Orange County with a memoir of the author. Arellano is pretty well know in "the OC" for his weekly column "Ask a Mexican" and this book reflects his wit and wisdom as well. I really enjoyed it.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Cronin on October 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I like Arellano, and expected better. The book is in 2 parts: (1) Arellano's family history; (2) Chapters on OC, such as religion, politics, and media attention.

The first part, on family history, was bloated, and -- surprisingly -- just not too interesting. It seemed like the middle school essays we all wrote about our families, cramming too many aunts and uncles into repetitive stories. True, there were a few good anecdotes, but nothing exceedingly interesting, historic, or memorable. And I didn't feel like I cared about any of his family members (except for him) by the end of the book.

The second part, in alternating chapters, concerned OC. It was interesting, but nothing amazing. OC religion, OC politics, and OC TV shows are inherently interesting, and it would have been hard to screw up this part of the book. Arellano did a good job of describing his vantagepoint. How his sheltered views about politics and the world changed, and how he became more progressive, activist, (while incurring the wrath of other activists), and famous was somewhat interesting.

If you need something light to read on a plane or the beach, and might not finish the book, I recommend Gustavo Arellano's Orange County.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gustavo Arellano is one of my favorite young authors. He writes a regular column for the OC Weekly called "Ask a Mexican". Standing astride two distinct cultures in Southern California is not always an easy task, but Gustavo manages to do so with humor and bite. I loved the book, but I am familiar with all of the Orange County references as I live in the area. As other reviewers have mentioned, the book is divided into alternating chapters chronicling the family history of Gustavo Arellano and topics related to Orange County. I am a teacher at a high school with a large Latino student body. The personal story of Gustavo's family revealing warts and all was fascinating and I gained new insight (and some confirmation)into the lives of my students. I adored the chapters on Orange County, but you have to be a local to really appreciate some of the crazy things that have happened in the county. From the Ku Klux Klan in Anaheim during the 1920's to the current doggie fashion show at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, the book describes the eclectic OC lifestyle. Gustavo does have a liberal bent and is a little bit overbearing at times, but he is also FUNNY. Overall, a good read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Arellano brilliantly combines family anecdotes and county history to expose the Orange County that exists beneath the glamorized, pop-culture hogwash that has been displayed by the media in the 00s. This book is just as unabashed and politically incorrect as his "Ask a Mexican!" column, and in every way just as honest. Arellano reveals the near-traumatizing memories of his father's alcoholism, his attraction to cousins, and his struggle to proudly identify as a Mexican. At the same time, he tackles conservative politics and reveals Orange County's damning past; from the hypocrisy of its famed lawmakers to the media's refusal to cover one of the region's largest strikes.

Concisely written and nicely paced, this book will be an enjoyable, easy read. For academics, you'll thirst to discover more about the county; for passive readers, you'll be glad he didn't get into too much detail. This book will be cherished by the progressive leftist types, but even talk radio fans will want to see what Arellano has to say with every page.
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