A People's Guide to Los Angeles, compiled by Laura Pulido, Larra R. Barraclough, and Wendy Cheng, was first published in 2012. The origins of this book were student projects organized in classrooms in California. A tourism manual to history from below, "a different kind of guidebook: one that explains power relations in a way everyone can understand, and which shares stories of struggle and resistance that inspire and educate activists, students, and critical thinkers."
"A People's Guide to Los Angeles offers an assortment of eye-opening alternatives to L.A.'s usual tourist destinations. It documents 115 little-known sites in the City of Angels where struggles related to race, class, gender, and sexuality have occurred. They introduce us to people and events usually ignored by mainstream media and, in the process, create a fresh history of Los Angeles. Roughly dividing the city into six regions—North Los Angeles, the Eastside and San Gabriel Valley, South Los Angeles, Long Beach and the Harbor, the Westside, and the San Fernando Valley—this illuminating guide shows how power operates in the shaping of places, and how it remains embedded in the landscape."
Structured as a typical guidebook, suggesting sites of interest and restaurants, the content and approach are atypical. Contrasting images from the past and present, the intent is to tell stories of these cities that the boosters and founding settlers would prefer not to be said, stories of people struggling to survive and thrive by changing their worlds and towns, and neighborhoods. The focus is on the geographies of struggle, the locations, and places where an alternative urban history emerges. Stories of union organizing and struggles against environmental racism, gentrification, and police brutality, geographies of resistance for LGBTQ struggles and immigrants' rights.
Since its initial publication, A People's Guide has developed into project series from the University of California Press, edited by Pulido, Barraclough, and Cheng. Greater Boston, San Francisco Bay Area, Orange County, and New York City all now have guides to the local geography of a "people's history."
"A People's Guide is a series of guidebooks that uncover the rich and vibrant stories of political struggle, oppression, and resistance in the everyday landscapes of major cities. These books will not only tell histories from the "bottom-up" but also show how landscapes are the product of struggle. Each book will include sites where the powerful have dominated and exploited other people and resources, as well as places where ordinary people have fought back in order to create a more just world."
The brilliance of this project is the generative possibilities to reproduce "people's guides" in many locales. These guides reorient an understanding of alternate geographies and the history of urban spaces. It's a reference book to read and learn about even if you have not traveled to these areas. If you are from these areas, you may learn entirely new histories. But most importantly, these guides are powerful and practical guides for people wanting to experience alternative geography and calendars. The books also suggest resources for further educating oneself on all the notations.
The care and craftedness of these books, the details, and the intentionality are from people who love the cities they write about and want to offer a more capacious understanding of what it means to tour a city.