"Mark Arax has achieved something truly wonderful. He shows us a California we don't know or haven't yet heard about: Post 9/11 racism and craziness in the Central Valley; dunderhead FBI agents prowling the land; the plight of immigrants as it really pans out; marijuana moguls dealing in stacks of cash that stinks of weed; the disgraceful decline of the once-great LA Times-all of it set in the larger frame of a generation of Armenian immigrants tied to the old country, in love with the new country, struggling to discover the meaning of life with all their might."
—Carolyn See, Making a Literary Life
"A lucid, warts-and-all portrait of California by a native son... [W]orthy of a place alongside the works of... Carey McWilliams and even Joan Didion."—Kirkus
"West of the West is a dreamscape as much as a landscape-and heart-stirring in its style and acute perception. It could be titled 'Why We Live Here Anyway'-I exhort you to read this book."—James Ellroy, author of The Black Dahlia and the Blood's a Rover
"These swift, penetrating essays from former Los Angeles Times writer Arax (In My Father's Name) take the measure of contemporary California with a sure and supple hand, consciously but deservedly taking its place alongside Didion's and Saroyan's great social portraits. Expect the unexpected from Arax's reports up and down the state: on the last of the Okies, the latest migrants from Mexico, the tree-sitters of Berkeley, Bay Area conspiracy theorists, an Armenian chicken giant's infamous fall or the mammoth marijuana economy of Humboldt County, among much else. For Arax, a third-generation Californian of Armenian heritage who spent years covering the Central Valley as an investigative reporter, the state's outré reputation and self-representation are a complex dance of myth and memory that includes his own family lore and personal history. It's partly this personal connection, running subtly but consistently throughout, that pushes the collection past mere reportage to a high literary enterprise that beautifully integrates the private and idiosyncratic with the sweep of great historical forces."—Publishers Weekly, starred review