This fall, when a local newspaper quizzed candidates running for the El Monte City Council, the paper gave each of them a questionnaire.
Along using the usual questions-on police force, on budgets and finance, on their own professional experiences-it asked something more unexpected.
Had they read East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte?
The book-which was published captured by lead editor and new CGU faculty member Romeo Guzmán and his colleagues-takes are designed for important questions of race, culture, identity, and forgotten history in El Monte, a town located just 20 miles west of Claremont.
“East of East” gathers together 31 essays tracing the experiences of this Southern California community over three centuries.
With wife Carribean Fragoza-who co-edited the book along with two other editors and can serve as coordinator of the Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards- Guzmán also runs the South El Monte Arts Posse (SEMAP), a collective of artists, writers, educators, urban planners, and others.
The collective explores methods to build relationships the El Monte community in organic ways to tell its history. That focus on community interaction and engagement is central to public history, a field that Guzmán previously explored like a professor at Fresno State.
At CGU he says his students will build up the kinds of skills essential to this historical approach and learn how to make individuals or communities, like El Monte's, become active participants in telling their very own histories.
Guzmán said he's grateful to his co-editors and also the many contributors to East of East for creating a book that blends high scholarship with enough accessibility to draw the eye of general readers (like those city council candidates).
\”It's just great when you realize your book can matter this way,\” he said, \”when you realize that a magazine can have the potential to help a city rethink itself.\”