In addition to being a writer, Natashia Deón is a practicing criminal defense attorney, and she suspects her legal career may affect the social justice issues that permeate her books, including “The Perishing,” due out Nov. 9. Deón says lawyers are witnesses to abundance in the courtroom.
“You also see the story of our nation, our city, of people who led them to those moments, those bad judgmental moments,” she says, “or even the judgments that lead us to be a perfect victim for someone. “
Deón was born and raised in Los Angeles, but it was not the intention of the Santa Clarita-based author to write a book about his hometown. “It just occurred to me that it was going to be about LA,” she says in a recent phone call, “and exploring the different ways LA has changed and grown, even from the time I was young, in ’80. ‘s and ran around. LA, and what it looks like today. “
A tale of immortality and the cyclical nature of human history, “The Perishing” is largely set in early 1930s Los Angeles, but flashes back and forth to testify to the injustices that have marked the city’s history. It was inspired by Deón’s nightmare.
“I woke up and it was so real to me that I started to google details,” says Deón. This search led her to the real Chinese massacre of 1871, in which 19 Chinese immigrants were killed. The event appears in a chapter of “The Perishing”.
Deón examined the history books. She dived into the water wars and William Mulholland’s life, the history of the Black Angelenos, the Prohibition, and the story of Americans who were white but not white Anglo – Saxon Protestants. She seemed to tell a story about 1930s Los Angeles that was not just about the golden age of Hollywood.
“I was wondering what everyone else was doing,” she says.
Deón also thought of writing the book as a “non-traditional sequel” to her debut “Grace,” which deals with a runaway slave in the 1840s. “I wanted it to be after slavery,” she says, adding that she wanted to see what America looked like in a place that “was not ravaged by the Civil War.”
Los Angeles in the 1930s offered the right setting.
“I wanted to see what it was like, what kind of hope brought people there, and what it meant specifically to black people who came to Los Angeles to get opportunities, just like other people had,” she says.
She takes readers into ethnically diverse Boyle Heights, explores the center in the waning days of the ban, and takes readers on newspaper assignments with Lou, a young female reporter tasked with covering death in the city as she attempts to unravel her own mysterious past .
Locals will recognize references to well-known LA spots, and there are also real-life cameo appearances of Angelenos. One is Charlotta Bass, who was the publisher of the California Eagle newspaper and went on to become the first black woman to run for vice president of the United States. “I knew I wanted to tell her story because she was essentially black and an activist in Los Angeles and represented so much of the journey for black people from south to west,” Deón says.
Another LA icon that comes into the story is Aimee Semple McPherson, who founded the Angelus Temple in Echo Park, which, as Deón points out, is probably the first mega church in the city. “She had a complicated life,” says Deón of McPherson. “I wanted to explore with her what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a Christian woman, and what it means to lead a movement.”
With “The Perishing,” Deón draws comparisons between the Los Angeles of the past and what we know today. In the novel, polio appears as a stand-in for COVID-19, and racism, xenophobia and sexism permeate the city regardless of the time period. “Most of the problems we have are patterns, whether it’s us as individuals or us as a society or us as a nation,” says Deón. “To change any pattern that causes us distress or that we do not want, we need to see the patterns.”
In his research, Deón noted the patterns. “There are so many things that reflect each other and we keep coming back to the same solutions,” she says. “I wanted to reveal the pattern so that if we choose, we can make better choices that benefit the nation.”
“I hope that in that way the book creates hope that we can actually change things,” says Deón, “because there is so much hopelessness around the problems that we are told are so important that make us scared and get to make us feel like nothing will ever change. “
“But that may change,” she says.
Natashia Deón book launch with Tod Golberg, Shannon Xiao, Jacob Grant, Barbara Fant & bridgette bianca
When: 19.30, 4. nov
Where: SkylightBooks, 1818 N Vermont Ave, LA, CA 90027, USA
Information: Contact Skylight Books