“Ask the Dust” Mapping Assignment

Group Members: Alara Blofield, Nyssa Yota, Jonah Deocariza, Sirey Teng

“Ask the Dust” is a well-known novel by the author John Fante, taking place in Los Angeles during the early 20th-century, around the time of the Great Depression. In lieu of reading this novel as part of the UHP 401 class requirement, we were tasked with the Time Mapper assignment. The goal of this assignment was to map various places encountered by the main character in the novel, Arturo Bandini, and order them in accordance with their chronological occurrence within the storyline.

The map we have created visualizes certain locations that not only hold significance in the scope of the fictional storyline of Arturo Bandini, but also in the understanding of real-life Los Angeles back in the 1930s. The novel may be categorized as one of fiction, but the environment and situations encountered by the main character still capture the essence of the reality of struggling immigrants and individuals facing poverty back in the early 20th-century. For example, in the Time Mapper linked below, one can observe the overview of the Pacific Electric Station which Bandini used to travel to Long Beach in the novel. The Pacific Electric Station is an example of a public transportation system many poor individuals (who could not and to this day may not be able to afford cars) had to use in order to travel. This transit system powered street cars, and was the largest electric railway system at that time. Although this specific transit system no longer exists and was replaced by the modern day Metro Line, the characteristics of individuals in need of this type of public transport system has remained virtually unchanged; in a population dense with people struck by poverty, many still find themselves relying on public transport in order to live economically sustainable lives.

In addition to locating common areas associated with poor immigrants in both the early 20th-century and modern-day Los Angeles, the map also allowed us to visualize how Los Angeles appeared during the Great Depression period. It demonstrates how much of Los Angeles has developed and changed, and how much of it remained the same. This was useful because we were able to learn the locations and setting of the every day lives of people living in Los Angeles during that time. For example, in the map, one can observe many places that today remain virtually unchanged in function and location from the time of Bandini: Chinatown, Grand Central Market, the Biltmore Hotel, and the Palisades neighborhood are such examples. Other places, such as the Alta Loma Hotel located in Bunker Hill, no longer exist (in this specific case, due to the demolition of Bunker Hill’s structures later in the 20th-century).

This assignment reinforced the material learned about the development of Los Angeles through the fictional (though realistic) novel, “Ask the Dust.” It enabled the visualization of the every day lives of immigrants and poor people during the Great Depression Era of developing Los Angeles. It also enabled the depiction of how Los Angeles was structured back then, and the areas and ways in which it changed or remained unchanged, demonstrating how the infrastructure of the city developed over time.

Time Mapper: https://timemapper.okfnlabs.org/anon/0f1tj8-bandini-timeline#0

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