Zoot suits revisited

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In his Westword column in the L.A. Times Book Review, Jonathan Kirsch reviews Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A.

Playwrights and pop singers — from Luis Valdez ("Zoot Suit") to the Cherry Poppin' Daddies ("Zoot Suit Riot") — have elevated the 1942 slaying known as the Sleepy Lagoon murder and the so-called Zoot Suit Riot of 1943 to mythic status in the popular culture. Now Eduardo Obregón Pagán deconstructs the myth and decodes the social, cultural and political meanings that can be read in virtually every detail in "Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon," a brilliant and ultimately persuasive effort to explain the function of music and fashion in shaping how Americans see themselves, then and now.

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