California Reading: Background information when reading Small Fry

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Small Fry

by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs X
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2018, 304 pages

    Jun 2019, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Meara Conner
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About this Book

California Reading

This article relates to Small Fry

Print Review

Big SurOne of the most captivating aspects of Lisa Brennan-Jones' Small Fry is the portrayal of California during the 1980s and 1990s. From the small, specific aspects of Northern California culture to the sweeping descriptions of the San Francisco hills, Brennan-Jones creates not just a backdrop, but an atmosphere of a time and place. Here are a few more books (both fiction and non-fiction) that perfectly encapsulate the California ambience.

Where I Was From by Joan Didion
Didion's iconic 2003 memoir follows not just her childhood in Sacramento and later life in Los Angeles, but details some of the little-known history of the state of California. From outlining the state's at-times troubled relationships to land and water to describing her own pioneer ancestors' experiences, Didion' profile of California explores her own bonds with the land to create a well-rounded and introspective portrait of the Golden State.

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Lepucki's novel explores the relationship between a wealthy Los Angeles wife, Lady, and her Berkeley-raised nanny, who goes by the pseudonym, S. Though a psychological examination of the dynamic between these two women is at the forefront of Woman No. 17, Edan Lepucki beautifully captures the sun-baked absurdity of Southern California, as well as the hyper-intensity of the environmentally conscious Berkeley culture.

The Girls by Emma Cline
Cline's debut is loosely based on one of the most iconic events ever to take place in California; the Manson Murders. We follow Evie Boyd, a young, impressionable girl who becomes entranced with a group of carefree girls who draw her into the circle of a cult led by a charismatic, but unsettling man. Though Evie cherishes her new-found friends, she can't ignore the eerie charge of the cult, and the overwhelming sense that violence is creeping ever closer. Though The Girls is only inspired by the Manson Cult and the murders that took place in the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles, it captures perfectly the hazy atmosphere of 1960s California, as well as the lurking unease under its surface.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed's debut memoir follows her journey (both physical and emotional) hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert in California through Oregon and Washington State. Her thousand-mile trek forces her to confront both literal dangers and mental ones; though Strayed's inner odyssey is undoubtedly compelling, the stunning portrait she creates of California's nature is even more so.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Tan's iconic first novel follows four Chinese-American immigrant families living in San Francisco who start a mahjong group known as the Joy Luck Club. Tan seamlessly blends the Northern California scenery with her careful characterization of the women of the club, while examining the intersection between Chinese and American identities, particularly in the relationships of the daughters growing up in America to their mothers who grew up in China.

Big Sur, south of Monterey, California

Filed under Reading Lists

Article by Meara Conner

This "beyond the book article" relates to Small Fry. It originally ran in September 2018 and has been updated for the June 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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