History Repeating Itself? How Racial Tensions Sparked the 1942 Zoot Suit Riots

Source: New York Public Radio

“If you can’t dance with your neighbors, you live in the wrong place”

That is one of the powerful lines from one of Margarita Engle’s poems, featured in her new book Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots.

The novel tells the story of the Zoot Suit Riots, or, as Engle calls them, the Sailor Riots. Engle’s poetry weaves the story of a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles, California, living under the shadow of the Second World War.

The riots were targeted attacks on young Mexican-American men and teens, who wore Zoot Suits and danced to popular jazz music. They were carried out by soldiers receiving their basic training in California, on their way to fight in World War II.

We explore the parallels between the 1942 riots and the current situation in 2018 with Margarita Engle, as she joins us to discuss her newest book.

Her book Jazz Owls: A Novel of the Zoot Suit Riots is on sale now.

Click on the ‘Listen’ button at New York Public Radio to hear this segment.

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