Magical Realism Transforms Los Angeles in ‘Tropic of Orange’

Chicago Review of Books

9781566894869_36707In support of their publication of Karen Tei Yamashita’s new work of nonfiction, Letters to Memory, Coffee House Press has reissued three of Yamashita’s novels in beautiful new jackets: Through the Arc of the Rainforest, Brazil-Maru, and Tropic of Orange, which is the subject of this review. Originally published in 1997 and already considered a canonical L.A. novel, its eclectic and feverish prose still speaks with a freshness on contemporary concerns around migration, identity, globalization and apocalypse.

Tropic of Orange weaves together a collection of seven narratives over seven days, taking place in Mexico and Los Angeles, and its most immediately striking feature is the diversity of its cast. Whilst there is no central character, the sections concerning Gabriel, a Chicano news reporter, are narrated in the first person and it his through him that the strands of narrative interweave.

Alongside Gabriel is Emi, a Japanese-American TV executive…

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