Reflections from the Shadow of Los Angeles: A Very Brief Memoir by Byron Schneider

Impervious Press

Review by Brian Tanguay

My only regret about Reflections from the Shadow of Los Angeles is, as the subtitle suggests, that it is very brief. I wanted to read more, know more, go deeper, which is testament to Byron Schneider’s clean prose. It has been a long time since I’ve read something that so strongly evokes my own memories of growing up in California at a time — the mid-to-late 1960s and 70s — that felt magical. Beaches, mountains, and sunshine most of the year conspired to make the possibilities offered by the Golden State seem endless. 

Schneider’s memories of Disneyland in its early incarnations mirror my own. I remember the thrill of seeing the Matterhorn ride from the freeway for the first time; I remember E tickets and the General Electric Carousel of Progress, Monsanto’s Inner Space, and my first glimpse of Main Street. How big, grand, and exciting it seemed to a little boy, particularly one to whom it seemed obvious that every American family watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night. 

This book also reminded me of the lemon, walnut and avocado orchards that bordered our neighborhood. To the neighborhood kids, those orchards were irresistible, drawing us as if by magnetic force. Places of light and shadow, crackling leaves, vibrantly alive yet quiet, filled with the aroma of fecund soil and the potential danger of being run off by the grizzled rancher who seemed to appear as if from nowhere. Like Schneider and his pals, we dug elaborate forts and tunnels, covered with scrounged plywood; once inside we vanished into our own world, faces illuminated by flickering candles. We spoke of mysteries, confided secrets, made boasts; we staged battles among the trees, pelted one another with dirt clods. It was a glorious time, an innocent time, and also a fleeting time; soon the trees would be bulldozed into tangled piles, the land graded by giant machines in preparation for a Ford dealership and a housing development.

Like Schneider’s parents, mine also operated on the principle that discussion of family history or trauma, misdeeds and failures, was unnecessary because it was all in the past. As Schneider writes, “The lid of silence in our family was screwed down even tighter than the norm.” Was this the reticence of a generation raised during the Depression and World War II, which prided itself on looking forward, never back, and avoided speaking of uncomfortable subjects?  

Reading this book filled me with the feeling of having found a kindred spirit. 

This book will be available in Spring 2024