Long before the arrival of Boyhood, the movie, there was boyhood, the subject of serious fiction. Like the film, these stories explore the theme of “growing up” and take place over several years. Also like the film, the stories are aimed at grown-ups. The main characters are perhaps “young adults”; members of the intended audience are not. Sadly but not surprisingly, California’s Famous Fifty pretty much ignore the whole subject. Books are out there, but once again, interested readers will need to work a bit to find them. In the list below each of the first three books focuses on one main character. In each of the remaining two a group of boys is the center of attention.
1. Abel Dayton by Flannery Lewis. A teenager experiences adolescence in a small, isolated railroad town in the desert east of Los Angeles.
2. Pocho by José Antonio Villarreal. Ethnic assimilation is a major element in a Mexican American boy’s coming of age in Santa Clara.
3. The Square Trap by Irving Shulman. A poor Mexican American teenager tries to surmount the difficulties of life in a Los Angeles barrio.
4. The Canyon by Peter Viertel. A nostalgic look at what appears to be a carefree adolescence in a semi-rural Los Angeles suburb.
5. The Boys by George Sumner Albee. A tale of teenage life in a newly developing L. A. suburb, told without nostalgia in a series of related short stories.
All the books should be easy to get through interlibrary loan. Purchasing them is another matter. Pocho is in print. Inexpensive copies of The Square Trap (many) and Abel Dayton (several) are for sale by internet booksellers. The remaining two are pricey. One copy of The Boys, apparently not in good shape, is going for $2,359.66. Amazing.