Set the Night on Fire

Set the Night on Fire:L.A. in the Sixties

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A magisterial, kaleidoscopic, riveting movement history of Los Angeles in the sixties.

Histories of the US sixties invariably focus on New York City, but Los Angeles was an epicenter of that decade’s political and social earthquake. L.A. was a launchpad for Black Power—where Malcolm X and Angela Davis first came to prominence and the Watts uprising shook the nation—and home to the Chicano walkouts and Moratorium, as well as birthplace of ‘Asian America’ as a political identity, base of the antiwar movement, and of course, centre of California counterculture.

Mike Davis and Jon Wiener provide the first comprehensive movement history of L.A. in the sixties, drawing on extensive archival research, scores of interviews with principal figures of the 1960s movements, and personal histories (both Davis and Wiener are native Los Angelenos). Following on from Davis’s award-winning L.A. history, City of Quartz, Set the Night on Fire is a fascinating historical corrective, delivered in scintillating and fiercely elegant prose.

Reviews

  • This huge and exhilarating work of history aims to restore some depth and accuracy to how we talk about Los Angeles in the 1960s ... Davis and Wiener have created an important book to read in a time where LA needs more than ever to be mobilized.

    John FreemanLit Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2020
  • The familiar, monochromatic picture of Los Angeles in the sixties - all Hollywood pop and Didion ennui - required a million people of African, Asian, and Mexican ancestry to be 'edited out of utopia,' as Mike Davis and Jon Wiener put it. What those people actually did, alongside antiwar feminists, high school students, and others, is the heart of this book, and it's a big heart. No one could tell these intersecting stories better than Davis and Wiener, and their book gives us back a great city's greatness in its movements, edges, and other centers, so many of them forgotten.

    Rebecca Solnit, author of Recollections of My Nonexistence
  • From the Ash Grove to Aztlán, from the Valley to Vietnam, it's all here. In showing how struggles for free health care, adequate housing, functional schools, racial and sexual liberation, new forms of creativity, and the human right of freedom from brutal police violence came together into a mighty torrent, Wiener and Davis have written a revolutionary history for an age of continuing contradictions.

    Daniel Widener, author of Black Arts West