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Your House Will Pay (2019)

by Steph Cha

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2331384,307 (4.19)35
"[A] suspense-filled page-turner about murder, repentance, and forgiveness." --Viet Thanh Nguyen "A marvel." --Michael Connelly "A touching portrait of two families bound together by a split-second decision." --Attica Locke In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it's been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She's distraught that her sister hasn't spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace's understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale. But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.… (more)
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“But she held tight to all her principles, and the most important of these was that family came first."

What to do when the bad guy was someone close to us?
  ilnsgr | Aug 9, 2020 |
This fast-paced novel takes place in greater Los Angeles 1991 and 2019, revolving around two families tied together by violence and injustice: the Black Halloway/Matthews family, and the Korean Park family. This novel is timely, and is also loosely based off of the 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins in south LA. Cha recommends [book:The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots|16225549] for further reading.

In this novel Cha touches on racism, injustice, the police and courts, and also family, expectations, dreams, parenting, fear, and love. She also discusses gangs, the prison system, the expansion of Palmdale as a distant bedroom community for LA (with affordable housing and limited gangs), different neighborhoods, and protests.

I found this book to be very well-done and readable. ( )
  Dreesie | Jul 31, 2020 |
"We got our tickets already. We paid for them and everything."

"That don't mean shit."

The genesis of this book is non-fiction: In 1991, Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by a store owner named Soon Ja Du. This sparked all sorts of nationalist and racist tension and violence, naturally contrasted with the racist violence and abuse that the black community in Los Angeles have been subject to for decades. The year after, the Los Angeles Riots occurred.

Cha's book jumps off from that event but expands it into a fictional work that reaches for the sublime. By subtly displaying how humans often interact in different groups—be it in the family, at work, with our loves, other groups of people, the police, the justice system—through means of everyday language that would make Mark Twain proud, Cha has made a book that is not only intricate but simple to follow.

The reader is thrown into action and quickly learns who's who. Racial tension is brought to the surface in a way that makes me, a 42-year-old Swedish citizen, taste more than the visceral shocks to the system that Cha's simple and highly effective plot and dialogue generate.

One of the most radiant methods that Cha uses throughout the book is to show how divides are not only created between constructs like "race" and "nationality", but also between family members (e.g. the mother-daughter relationship), in heterosexuality (e.g. how men and women can interact differently than men with only men, and women with only women), in police departments, in the justice system, and even between different eras. Naturally, all of these divides between humans are merely socially constructed, and Cha highlights that fact beautifully.

Miriam was so American she renounced her own mother—a capital crime, pretty much, in a Confucian culture.

The simplicity in the writing is this book's greatest grace and provides the best framing for the story, which is simple and would undoubtedly have foiled, were it not for the author's skills.

The club leader was behind Grace, so close his voice made her jump. “Is there a problem?” The hope on his face was disgusting. Grace willed her sister to keep her mouth shut. Miriam didn’t even hesitate.

“I didn’t come here to drink with the Simi Valley Hitler Youth.”
“We’re not Nazis.”

The way he said it made Grace think he had to make the denial often.

“I’ve never had to clarify that I’m not a Nazi,” said Miriam.

Cha has written a glass onion of a book that is easily read and floats to my mind to and fro, a week after I finished it. ( )
  pivic | Mar 21, 2020 |
2020TOB--Last book I'm reading for the TOB this year and I liked it. I think this book did an excellent job of looking at racism. Based on a true event but a book of fiction. The character development of the both the families was great. Although having "justice being served" may seem a little boilerplate and expected it dug deep into feelings and what family love is. ( )
  kayanelson | Mar 6, 2020 |
Based off the real events of the shooting of Latasha Harlins in the 1990s, this fictional story is told with alternating chapters between two families who both know violence due to race. Grace remains oblivious of a very important part of her mother's past until her mother is shot in a drive-by in the parking lot of their job. It seems everyone but Grace knew that her mother shot a black teenager twenty seven years before, for believing she was stealing a carton of milk from her store. Shawn, the brother of the victim, who might be the most vulnerable throughout the book is more of a pillar of strength -- very admirable for what he went through. He helps others when he could have had a much different path as an orphan and his sister is taken from him. I was very happy to follow Shawn as the main character. The book is honest, but possibly not honest enough. I don't believe it's as easy as moving a short distance away to escape gang life -- when you're in it, you're in it. This might be some fictional license to move the plot. Overall, this is a necessary book on racial violence. This book reminds me of the straight-forward writing and the style of shifting between two intertwining families of Tom Piazza's 'City of Refuge'. It also reminded me of 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas. Read all three! ( )
  booklove2 | Feb 22, 2020 |
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Epigraph
We ain’t meant to survive, ’cause it’s a setup.
—Tupac Shakur, Keep Ya Head Up, dedicated to the memory of Latasha Harlins
Even to this day I can’t believe something like this could happen to our family.
—letter from Soon Ja Du to Judge Joyce Karlin, October 25, 1991
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For Maria Joo
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“Well, this is it,” said Ava. “I don’t know how we’re supposed to find these fools.”
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"[A] suspense-filled page-turner about murder, repentance, and forgiveness." --Viet Thanh Nguyen "A marvel." --Michael Connelly "A touching portrait of two families bound together by a split-second decision." --Attica Locke In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it's been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She's distraught that her sister hasn't spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace's understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale. But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

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