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Sunday books preview: Mexican American culture, a not-just-for-kids book and more

January 23, 2009 |  4:50 pm

Luchalibremasks

In this Sunday's book section, which you can now access online, Gustavo Arellano looks at two books: "Mexican American Mojo: Popular Music, Dance, and Urban Culture in Los Angeles, 1935-1968" by Anthony Macías and Heather Levi's "The World of Lucha Libre: Secrets, Revelations and Mexican National Identity." Arellano writes:

Seeing non-Mexicans partake in my mother culture makes me alternately smile and wince. Culture, of course, is fluid by definition, but there's something about Mexican pastimes that, when made safe for American audiences, too often lose a semblance of authenticity and transform into modern-day versions of Amos 'n' Andy. It's great that lucha libre, the Mexican style of wrestling best known for its masked fighters and acrobatic moves, is mainstream enough to get the Hollywood treatment in a recent Jack Black film, but the way Los Angeles hipsters rave about the wildly popular Lucha VaVoom series of lucha libre/burlesque events reminds me of American servicemen talking about seedy south-of-the-border bars.

He likes one book more than the other, but you'll have to see the whole review to find out which.

Columnist Ed Park looks at "The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories" anthologized by the independent Small Beer Press. Written by British author Joan Aiken — she started as a teenager and continued until not long before she died at age 79 — they're fantasy stories that aren't particularly childish. "The wit is irrepressible, the invention wild," Ed Park writes. Read the whole review here.

Also in books: California's fiscal crisis is nothing new — just look at Carey McWilliam's "California: The Great Exception," 60 years old and sadly familiar. There's a new novel from Stacy D'Erasmo, "The Sky Below." And Edgar Allan Poe's birthday is the occasion for a new biography by the prolific Peter Ackroyd.

— Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Lucha libre masks in Los Angeles. Credit: oceanaris via Flickr.

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