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BEACH RIOTS!: The New Novel

In March 2011 Updates on March 31, 2011 at 12:03 pm


An Unpublished Novel by Thaïs Miller

In 1962, a 21-year-old Midwestern Jew named Baruch Dershowitz moves to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of acting but has difficulty landing a role. To save money, he rents a house on 110th Street in Watts. Running from audition to audition two years later, Baruch bumps into Omar Harris, another aspiring actor. Omar, a 27-year-old member of the Nation of Islam, was born and raised in Watts and lives with his parents and teenage sister. Omar agrees to work with Baruch to break into the industry. After Omar fights with his family about this new friendship, Omar moves in with Baruch and their friendship strengthens.

But in 1965, when Baruch lands a role in a beach party film entitled Bikini Bombshells and Omar does not, Baruch changes his name to Barry Dale and disassociates from a jealous Omar. After continuous fighting, mutual acts of malice and revenge, Omar saves Barry’s life during the climax of the 1965 Watts Rebellion by telling Barry to hide on the floor of a Corvair convertible as Omar drives it out of the area.

Told from the conflicting perspectives of both men as they reach middle age around the time of the Rodney King Riots (1992-1994), BEACH RIOTS! is a satire critiquing the government’s response to a neglected community and the values of the Hollywood film industry. BEACH RIOTS! explores an unconventional friendship, the contradictions between nostalgia and history, and what it means to be human.

Thaïs Miller wrote BEACH RIOTS!, her third novel, for her M.A. thesis in Creative Writing for Social Activism from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. As a novelist born and raised in Los Angeles, she felt that she had a responsibility to her city to use her writing to reexamine an event rarely discussed in mainstream history textbooks.