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The Girls in My Town: Essays (River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize)

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The autobiographical essays in The Girls in My Town create an unforgettable portrait of a family in Los Angeles. Reaching back to her grandmother’s childhood and navigating through her own girlhood and on to the present, Angela Morales contemplates moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, motherhood and daughterhood. She writes about her parents’ appliance store and The autobiographical essays in The Girls in My Town create an unforgettable portrait of a family in Los Angeles. Reaching back to her grandmother’s childhood and navigating through her own girlhood and on to the present, Angela Morales contemplates moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, motherhood and daughterhood. She writes about her parents’ appliance store and how she escaped from it, the bowling alley that provided refuge, and the strange and beautiful things she sees while riding her bike in the early mornings. She remembers fighting for equal rights for girls as a sixth grader, calling the cops when her parents fought, and listening with her mother to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” the soundtrack of her parents’ divorce. Poignant, serious, and funny, Morales’s book is both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of how a writer discovers her voice. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Angela Morales lives in Pasadena, California, and teaches at Glendale Community College. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and is a recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for nonfiction.


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The autobiographical essays in The Girls in My Town create an unforgettable portrait of a family in Los Angeles. Reaching back to her grandmother’s childhood and navigating through her own girlhood and on to the present, Angela Morales contemplates moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, motherhood and daughterhood. She writes about her parents’ appliance store and The autobiographical essays in The Girls in My Town create an unforgettable portrait of a family in Los Angeles. Reaching back to her grandmother’s childhood and navigating through her own girlhood and on to the present, Angela Morales contemplates moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, motherhood and daughterhood. She writes about her parents’ appliance store and how she escaped from it, the bowling alley that provided refuge, and the strange and beautiful things she sees while riding her bike in the early mornings. She remembers fighting for equal rights for girls as a sixth grader, calling the cops when her parents fought, and listening with her mother to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” the soundtrack of her parents’ divorce. Poignant, serious, and funny, Morales’s book is both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of how a writer discovers her voice. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Angela Morales lives in Pasadena, California, and teaches at Glendale Community College. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and is a recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for nonfiction.

30 review for The Girls in My Town: Essays (River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Myrna

    My daughter and I were lucky to see Angela Morales talk about her book a couple months ago at the San Antonio Public Library Festival. I'm not big fan of short stories but I'm glad I picked this one up. Morales’ collection of essays are honest and brave. They explore her childhood, coming of age, growing up in California, heritage, family, motherhood and teaching. I was able to relate to Morales and some of her stories being a hispanic woman around the same age. Will be reading her next book. My daughter and I were lucky to see Angela Morales talk about her book a couple months ago at the San Antonio Public Library Festival. I'm not big fan of short stories but I'm glad I picked this one up. Morales’ collection of essays are honest and brave. They explore her childhood, coming of age, growing up in California, heritage, family, motherhood and teaching. I was able to relate to Morales and some of her stories being a hispanic woman around the same age. Will be reading her next book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chelene

    I really wish I was capable of writing a decent review. I typically only leave stars because I feel I cannot come up with the words needed to adequately describe how much I enjoyed a book. This is one book I enjoyed enough to leave a very heartfelt, yet awkward review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This collection is so good. The writing is spot on and feels effortless.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    I received this book for free through Goodreads' Giveaways program. Angela Morales' book is a collection of essays about her life, ranging from childhood to adulthood. Her childhood in California wasn't an easy one. Besides the usual problems affecting girls growing up, Morales had to deal with the volatile marriage (and eventual divorce) of her parents. Her descriptions of her parents and their behavior were excellent. The essays about her childhood were, in my opinion, the best in the book. The I received this book for free through Goodreads' Giveaways program. Angela Morales' book is a collection of essays about her life, ranging from childhood to adulthood. Her childhood in California wasn't an easy one. Besides the usual problems affecting girls growing up, Morales had to deal with the volatile marriage (and eventual divorce) of her parents. Her descriptions of her parents and their behavior were excellent. The essays about her childhood were, in my opinion, the best in the book. There were a couple essays that I couldn't get through because they seemed tiresome. When her essays veered into her adulthood, I became less interested and engaged (with one exception-- the piece on her teaching a community college class and encountering an especially fascinating student). Recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tom Bromley

    I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway. I've recently read three best sellers. All highly rated. All on the best seller list for ages. Most I give a "so-so" for a review. What's all the fuss over those books? OK, so on to this book. I can only saw that I truly liked this book so much more than those highly touted novels ! It was beautifully written. A true gem ! Looking forward to more from this wonderful author ! The best thing I have read so far this year ! I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway. I've recently read three best sellers. All highly rated. All on the best seller list for ages. Most I give a "so-so" for a review. What's all the fuss over those books? OK, so on to this book. I can only saw that I truly liked this book so much more than those highly touted novels ! It was beautifully written. A true gem ! Looking forward to more from this wonderful author ! The best thing I have read so far this year !

  6. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Really fabulous writing, both in terms of the prose and the storytelling, with some really sharp insights into relationships of all sorts. My only quibble is that it was somewhat repetitive due to the fact that this is a collection of essays rather than a long narrative with a single thread; there's occasionally quite a bit of overlap in the material the essays cover, which also means there's the occasional spoiler. But it was still a thoroughly enjoyable book on so many levels. I recommend it h Really fabulous writing, both in terms of the prose and the storytelling, with some really sharp insights into relationships of all sorts. My only quibble is that it was somewhat repetitive due to the fact that this is a collection of essays rather than a long narrative with a single thread; there's occasionally quite a bit of overlap in the material the essays cover, which also means there's the occasional spoiler. But it was still a thoroughly enjoyable book on so many levels. I recommend it highly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ellison

    Features a collection of tales about a Latina coming of age in California. topics include bowling, 'discrimination', domestic violence, criminals, a foodie report, pets, passing away of a relative, and more. Occasional insight into the human condition. Swearing. Features a collection of tales about a Latina coming of age in California. topics include bowling, 'discrimination', domestic violence, criminals, a foodie report, pets, passing away of a relative, and more. Occasional insight into the human condition. Swearing.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Didn't want to put it down! I loved the author's voice in these essays. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Didn't want to put it down! I loved the author's voice in these essays. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erick

    "Here in the Central Valley - in this sun-bleached, hardtack landscape - we have no choice but to search for beauty." "Once, when I was eighteen, a fortune-teller peered at my palm and said, 'Mmm... lucky you live in these times. One hundred years ago you would have died giving birth.' In this small-town hospital, though, one hundred years does not seem like that long ago." "The baby wanted us to love him, maybe to improve his chances of survival." "But babies get annoying real fast. They get bigg "Here in the Central Valley - in this sun-bleached, hardtack landscape - we have no choice but to search for beauty." "Once, when I was eighteen, a fortune-teller peered at my palm and said, 'Mmm... lucky you live in these times. One hundred years ago you would have died giving birth.' In this small-town hospital, though, one hundred years does not seem like that long ago." "The baby wanted us to love him, maybe to improve his chances of survival." "But babies get annoying real fast. They get bigger and then squirm away from you... They jump into your ribs, into your chest, into your cheekbones, and the more you try to wrench them off, the more they want to jump on you again; sometimes you want to show them off and maybe pinch their little arms or yank a clump of hair or leave them in the crib, even if they're crying and calling you so pitifully, and you know this borders on child abuse, but it's really hard when there's no father and you are it - the kid's sun and moon." "And maybe the babies, in some weird way, reflect our need to find beauty, once again, in this landscape. In any case, I suspect our connection to the land runs deeper than we know."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Robert B

    Shortlisted for the 2017 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. These interconnected essays about growing up Latino in California in the 1970s are uneven, as is often the case with such collections. The twelve essays take the reader from the author’s youth (the daughter of parents who argued vehemently and eventually divorced) to her own motherhood. The best essays are “Skin and Toes, Ears and Hairs” (in which Morales recalls two encounters with perverts and reflects on her f Shortlisted for the 2017 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. These interconnected essays about growing up Latino in California in the 1970s are uneven, as is often the case with such collections. The twelve essays take the reader from the author’s youth (the daughter of parents who argued vehemently and eventually divorced) to her own motherhood. The best essays are “Skin and Toes, Ears and Hairs” (in which Morales recalls two encounters with perverts and reflects on her fears for her children), “Nine Days of Ruth” (about her grandmother’s death), and “The Girls in My Town” (in which she contrasts her own experience with childbirth with that of the teenage mother with whom she shares a hospital room). While all the stories are concisely written, none is particularly powerful or engaging to the general reader.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Simon Stegall

    I'm beginning to get a sense that contemporary essays are not my thing. It's not that Morales is a bad writer- it's that the genre she is inhabiting (contemporary essay) is boring, lazy, and lacking in the literary and intellectual vigor that made the creative nonfiction essay a beautiful genre to begin with. I'm sticking with stuff pre-1950 from now on, unless someone shows me a contemporary author who does justice to the genre of the essay. Only exception I'm aware of is Dillard. I'm beginning to get a sense that contemporary essays are not my thing. It's not that Morales is a bad writer- it's that the genre she is inhabiting (contemporary essay) is boring, lazy, and lacking in the literary and intellectual vigor that made the creative nonfiction essay a beautiful genre to begin with. I'm sticking with stuff pre-1950 from now on, unless someone shows me a contemporary author who does justice to the genre of the essay. Only exception I'm aware of is Dillard.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nic Rueth

    3.5. I wasn’t blown away by this book as I had hoped to be, hearing its good reviews. Morales seems to end every essay with an open ending, saying, “what about the future?” While it worked for some essays, it didn’t work for the title essay, which was most disappointing and unconvincing in her last sentence of the essay and the whole collection.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kandace

    Angela describes this collection of essays as odd children and I really loved these odd children. Spanning a long chronology of her life, yet seamlessly referring to each other throughout the collection I had many moments of surprise and awe in her insightful writing style. I'm thinking about possibly submitting a proposal for a book to this publisher and this was a great way to study. Angela describes this collection of essays as odd children and I really loved these odd children. Spanning a long chronology of her life, yet seamlessly referring to each other throughout the collection I had many moments of surprise and awe in her insightful writing style. I'm thinking about possibly submitting a proposal for a book to this publisher and this was a great way to study.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alissa

    3.5-4. A collection of interesting, well-written biographical essays. Not a page-turner or a life-changer, but a solid, enjoyable, thinkable/reflectable read. Would recommend. (Would also like to know bits of her life story these essays left out -- when/why did her parents finally divorce? What is her relationship to her father? What is her relationship to her husband?)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    Morales has a great voice and writes evocatively about a very specific place. There is a series of four essays in a row dealing with themes of death near the end of the book that I thought contained the best writing and content by far in the nuanced approach to living things leaving the earth.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    Though I don't typically read collections of essays, I did enjoy The Girls in My Town. Not only did it allow a look into Morales' personal history, but it also gives the reader an idea what it was like to grow up in the L.A. area. Though I don't typically read collections of essays, I did enjoy The Girls in My Town. Not only did it allow a look into Morales' personal history, but it also gives the reader an idea what it was like to grow up in the L.A. area.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    Powerful essays on life growing up in the Central Valley. Clear, concise writing that knows how to tug the reader in.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elise Martin

    I love this writer - her voice, her style, her story. One of those books that, when you finish it, leaves you wishing for more.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Enid

    I loved this essay collection so much. You know how sometimes you read an essay so perfect you think to yourself - why do I even try? Yeah - some of these did that to me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kali Fajardo-Anstine

    Outstanding collection of essays, focused on Chicanas with many themes that resonated with me, from domestic violence to cultural identity. A great and important representation of Latinas.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    This is a beautiful collection of essays!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Story Circle Book Reviews

    Angela Morales begins her book of memoir essays, The Girls in My Town, explaining a childhood off-kilter from that of most girls. Instead of merry-go-rounds and swings, her playgrounds were kitchen appliance mazes.and bowling alleys. The first because her parents owned a large appliance store, where she ran around among the washers, dryers, stoves and refrigerators; the second because she was a member of a bowling team at a young age. On reading the first essay, "Chief Little Feather. Where are Y Angela Morales begins her book of memoir essays, The Girls in My Town, explaining a childhood off-kilter from that of most girls. Instead of merry-go-rounds and swings, her playgrounds were kitchen appliance mazes.and bowling alleys. The first because her parents owned a large appliance store, where she ran around among the washers, dryers, stoves and refrigerators; the second because she was a member of a bowling team at a young age. On reading the first essay, "Chief Little Feather. Where are You?" (referring to the man who taught her bowling), I suspected that this was going to be a book that looked at life a bit south of center. I was right. Morales looks at the world with writer eyes that go beyond the present and into the realms of whys and what ifs, all the while keeping herself a bit removed from the fray. The twelve essays in the book take the reader from Morales' youth to motherhood, including milestones along the way. These include surviving her parents' loud, sometimes violent, feuding as well as seeing naked men masturbating (thankfully at a distance), and the downside of having too much freedom. I lived through similar experiences in my own youth, but quickly pushed them to the back of my mind because of the storybook childhood I pretended to have. Morales, however, faces the unpleasantries head-on, with a depth to her thoughts that give better meaning and understanding to my own past. Hers is the kind of writing that makes reading so rewarding. The Girls in My Town (also the title of the book's final essay) is a coming of age story. It's funny. It's sad. It's full of sunshine and warts and moments and events that are constantly shaping a child into a woman, and then into a writer. Morales looks past the visible attributes of the people in her life, and wonders what lies beneath. This is particular true as she sits with a dying grandmother. After a hospice nurse tells Morales that her grandmother is slipping away and may pass at any time, she wonders what her grandmother would have to say about the "delicate language." I want to talk to Grandma Ruth about the language, tell her that she's knocking at death's door, about to croak (think frogs), about to kick the bucket, and that soon she'll be six feet under in the boneyard, gone to meet her maker, food for the worms, an ex-grandma, rest in peace. I think she'd laugh. (But I could be wrong.) And later, she uses some of that "delicate language" to tell her two-year-old son that Grandma Ruth's body is old and tired, and will soon simply stop working. This was one of those books I wished had been longer. I might have learned more about embracing my own coming-of-age years, the ones I pushed in a closet, not because they were truly bad, but simply because they had a few warts. Morales accepts her warts, along with her caring nature, and turns them into meaningful stories. by Pat Bean for Story Circle Book Reviews reviewing books by, for, and about women

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    After reading "The Girls in My Town" it's easy to see how Angela Morales won the River Teeth Book Prize. This is an essay collection that traverses landscape and language, set in the outskirts of 1970s Los Angeles and traveling up to California's Central Valley, bringing insights and perceptions, destroying stereotypes along the way. Angela writes in the vein of Jo Ann Beard with her "The Boys of My Youth," but she's no imitator. From the inside of her parent's convenience store to the dogs she' After reading "The Girls in My Town" it's easy to see how Angela Morales won the River Teeth Book Prize. This is an essay collection that traverses landscape and language, set in the outskirts of 1970s Los Angeles and traveling up to California's Central Valley, bringing insights and perceptions, destroying stereotypes along the way. Angela writes in the vein of Jo Ann Beard with her "The Boys of My Youth," but she's no imitator. From the inside of her parent's convenience store to the dogs she's loved to navigating her parent's tumultuous relationship in the midst of the ERA and women's liberation movement, to a small, dusty California town with high teenage pregnancy rates, Angela infuses her essays with lyricism and understanding.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Glen U

    "The Girls in My Town" was an unusual book for me to read. It is a series of essays, written by a Latino woman, about her journey from when she was a small child to becoming an accomplished writer, while living in the Central Valley of California. The writing is crisp, the stories are entertaining and evocative, and the mood is one of triumph and growth and hope while enduring hardships, both physically and emotionally. An especially moving piece, at least for me, was the "Elegy and Apology to D "The Girls in My Town" was an unusual book for me to read. It is a series of essays, written by a Latino woman, about her journey from when she was a small child to becoming an accomplished writer, while living in the Central Valley of California. The writing is crisp, the stories are entertaining and evocative, and the mood is one of triumph and growth and hope while enduring hardships, both physically and emotionally. An especially moving piece, at least for me, was the "Elegy and Apology to Dogs" essay, as it brought back my own memories of dogs long past in my life. Although a lot of the material deals with somber subjects, the book was never bogged down by despair or pity. It always gives a message of resiliency and living life the best we can, with what we are given. A feel good book without the Pollyannish sheen of fiction. A very good read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    3 and 1/2 of 5 stars. These essays manage to evoke sympathy and empathy although growing up a girl around the same time is all I have in common with the author. I read the stories of a tumultuous childhood, campaigning for women's rights in 5th grade, early motherhood, both hers and others, and teaching remedial students between other books but found it easy to reconnect. 3 and 1/2 of 5 stars. These essays manage to evoke sympathy and empathy although growing up a girl around the same time is all I have in common with the author. I read the stories of a tumultuous childhood, campaigning for women's rights in 5th grade, early motherhood, both hers and others, and teaching remedial students between other books but found it easy to reconnect.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    The first 75 pages were so full of period detail and evocative of childhood that I felt like I was ten years old again. I didn't like the other essays as much, though. And way too many sentences in the book ended in a question mark. The first 75 pages were so full of period detail and evocative of childhood that I felt like I was ten years old again. I didn't like the other essays as much, though. And way too many sentences in the book ended in a question mark.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Trish Schade

    Brutally honest and brave, Angela Morales paints a provocative picture of her childhood and growing up in California. I couldn't put it down. Brutally honest and brave, Angela Morales paints a provocative picture of her childhood and growing up in California. I couldn't put it down.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    High 3. Many lovely moments, especially about animals and about the highs and lows of teaching.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    Absolutely in love with this book!!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Crooks Lucia

    I was a little reluctant about reading this book because it is a collection of essays, but the author's words/writing style quickly caught my interest. I love this book and look forward to reading anything else by this author. I was a little reluctant about reading this book because it is a collection of essays, but the author's words/writing style quickly caught my interest. I love this book and look forward to reading anything else by this author.

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