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

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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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 AskAMexican.net.
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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 (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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I recently moved to Orange County and wanted to find a local history book. This popped up in a Google search. I have been laughing my way thru this book while learning quite a lot about the history and politics of Orange County.
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This is a great history book for Americans, Californians, and Mexicans alike. I like the way Gustavo Arellano highlights the confluence of the various cultures of Orange County. I lived in southern California for three years and Gustavo pointed several things I had missed. Because of this book, I watched the TV show Arrested Development, about which I have mixed feelings. I'm not sure if I should give Gustavo credit or blame for me watching the show.
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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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I read this book for my class on gentrification. It was a very enjoyable read and it was interesting learning about the commercialization of Orange County and its racial/political history. I would definitely recommend this book.
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This is a book that's probably only going to be very interesting for people from Southern California, generally speaking. Especially people from the Greater Los Angeles area, for obvious reasons.

There's some great historical information about Orange County, great depth into how the Catholic Church scandal affected Orange County and some interesting Arellano family history.

I recommend it to all Southern Californians, people who have an interest Mexican-American history, people with an interest in Orange County and anyone who enjoys a fun, yet informative, reads.
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Format: Paperback
If you've gotten into (and get the spot-on humor of) the "Ask A Mexican" column [...]) that Arellano writes for the Orange County Weekly, then pick this up.

Basically it's a memoir of Arellano's life growing up in Ornage County but it's also a tale of how a village in Mexico became transplanted to the region and how Arellano developed his incredible style of writing. The short asides focusing on the various cities that form the county are a great addition as are the one restaurant he picks in each as worth checking out.

The only chapter that made my eyes glaze over was the one on religion. I know I should care about that topic but I just don't especially when it comes to the evangelical types who created drive-in congregations and are wealthier than most Third World nations.

The author also understands that to truly understand racism, it has to be approached with this sense of absurd humor that Arellano just plain gets.
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