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November 5, 2013

Book Notes - Roy Choi "L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food"

L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Chef and restauranteur Roy Choi's L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food is impressive as both memoir and cookbook (over 60 recipes are shared), and is especially effective at examining the influences of Choi's family and the city of Los Angeles on both his life and food.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"Street-wise, honest in its admission of trials and punctuated with vernacular swagger, Choi’s debut pays tribute to family and his enduring fascination with the melting pot of Los Angeles. "

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Roy Choi's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir, L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food:

I got asked to write a Kogi book.

I said no.

Never in my life have I been good at grammar.

Ever since I was a youth I'd have to write things down in scribbles and run-on sentences to help me translate what the rest of the world was saying to me. I wrote love letters on pizza boxes to girls who I just met, kinda creepy, I know. My folders were just one long sentence from like 6th grade to 12th grade. Scratches and stoned thoughts that swirled around each other like a cinnamon bun leading to nowhere. Then I thought it was poetry. That must be it. I'm a poet, I didn't need punctuation. Convincing myself was easy, because I saw the things that street photographers capture, I saw them in slow motion too. I saw them in words. The dust from a rug being brought out by a lady in a second floor apartment from the musk in the reverb of dusk, each particle a composition of her pain and of her happiness and of her just doing the normal boring fucking duties of life.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote but it wasn't right.

There was no iambic pentameter and it didn't fit into the proper Haiku.

It was just diarrhea.

Then I found cooking and those words that never fit became flavors. I finally found a way to draw what I was seeing and it was digested. It was left to fester and find it's own place within others through the small intestines then eventually became shit, again.

But it finally was a way to turn scribbles and static into something cohesive.

I went many years not having to explain anything in words.

Eye contact, a hand gesture, a smell, hard work was my language. Flavor was my ink.

Then it kept coming.

You should write a book...

Don't you even fucking know that I can't write?

I'm not an edited person.

How the hell could I write something for you to understand? It's not how I think, concise words n shit.

Here eat this, there's my book you fucking asshole.

My cooking has all the in between the line thoughts, what more do you need?

Then I stopped fighting it and being mad. Then I realized it was time to write a book and it was OK to not be good at grammar, because I could finally ask for help and find others because they care.

I didn't have to fight the world all the time.

So, it couldn't be a Kogi book because Kogi is just not my story to tell.

Kogi is a collective of partners and fiends that create this new day hippie movement. It's not that simple as everyone wants it to be in a book. It's stories and perspectives from a band that make a whole.

So I confronted something else. The question I was getting constantly. "How did you come up with this flavor?" It came in waves of rabid poking. I had to have an answer in 7 words or less. Then I got frustrated and rambled or shut up and that didn't satisfy anyone.

So that became the book. How did I find this flavor that changed the way people feel about street food in America?

I had no fucking idea.

So I decided that the only way to find out was to look at my life.

And that became the book.

But there was one last thing.

The grammar and the rambling.

I could scribble this for years across sidewalks that stretch to the farthest city from LA, but I think I'd end up still knowing nothing with a book that no one would understand.

It's been a long road to trusting people because of the way I went through life but I knew the key to this book was to trust others and to find a team that I could just be me in my fucked up broken state and they would help me translate it.

That was Natasha, Tien, Doe, Bobby, Libby, Suet, Daniel, Anthony, everyone at Ecco and my nights on the streets in LA.

They took my garbage and helped me recycle it, piece by piece.

I wrote for one straight year every night after work till 6am with no sleep. Just screens and screens of stuff and they sifted through it and help me find my commas and my periods. They helped me find my flow and I thank them for that.

But most of all, they helped me find my story and answer the question of how did I come up with this flavor....?

In the nights I would write, I'd write in silence. That private space from midnight to 6am where everyone is asleep and your thoughts feel like they have the freedom to approach the skeletons in your closet before the sun reappears.

But after writing, I'd have to read it.

And I couldn't read it again in silence because now it was daylight and the confidence went back to the darkness and I was back alone.

So I read it with music.

I don't have actual tracks I can give you like your other posts because that's not how my brain works. I don't remember things in specifics. They pass through me like water through a sieve.

But they store themselves within me and find their place to be helpful one day when I need it, or not.

So I'm gonna just list some artists that I listened to or that I think it would be nice to read to.

I know that when I re-read the chapters or ramblings to the music, it provided a soundtrack that made the book even more alive.

So if the book, L.A. Son gets boring, then just throw on one of these jams and hopefully it will liven itself up, because I don't wanna waste your time thinking this book was boring.

Dilated Peoples
Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Sonny Rollins
Led Zeppelin
Pink Floyd
Bob Dylan
Joni Mitchell
The Clash
Roc Marciano
Cypress Hill
Louis Armstrong
Chuck Berry
Rick James
Teena Marie
Paul's Boutique
flying lotus
public enemy
Action Bronson
Vinnie Paz
Wu Tang
J Boog
Jimmy Cliff
Barrington Levy

This is what I was listening to as I read the book.

I hope you can too.


Roy Choi and L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book

New York Times review

The Atlantic Cities interview with the author
Morning Edition interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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