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Crossing California

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,673 ratings  ·  215 reviews
Set in Chicago's Jewish neighborhood of West Rogers Park, this is the story of three families--adults and children alike--coming of age during the tumultuous, turbulent days of the Iran hostage crisis. At the close of the 1970s, the Rovners, the Wasserstroms, and the Wills-Silvermans will have to shed their pasts to cross into that new, shining decade of hope: the 80s.
Paperback, 512 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Riverhead Trade (first published 2004)
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The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerBinding Arbitration by Elizabeth MarxThe Jungle by Upton SinclairDivergent by Veronica Roth
Books Set in Chicago
38th out of 309 books — 240 voters
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Name of State (USA) in Title: A-C
93rd out of 125 books — 29 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,584)
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Adam Brunner

Several months after first reading Crossing California, I discovered a video on author Adam Langer’s website. Narrated by Langer, the video features early 1970’s Super-8 footage of Chicago’s West Rogers Park, the neighborhood in which the novel is set. Unearthed from the basement of his parents’ home, this should have been a gem to me. I was absolutely captivated by this novel, and I admit to being something of an Adam Langer fan-boy. Strangely, my first response to this footage was dejection. T

Riporto a galla di un libro un po' in ombra.

Ben ritrovati, amici e amiche, sono qui per..

Okay, no.

Sono lieta di rincontrarvi nell'occasio..


Hey, bros!


Siamo qui per fare la conoscenza di un autore americano della cerchia ebraica di Roth & co, un loro fratellino minore che ingiustamente riceve sempre le briciole: Adam Langer.
Langer di fatto non è l'ultimo arrivato, tant'è vero che potrebbe essere mio padre. Cresciuto negli anni '70 nella zona di West Rogers Park a Chicago
Mary Billinghurst
I started reading Crossing California on a day when I had a lot of time to get into the book. As a result, I found myself transported to the West Rogers Park neighbourhood of Chicago. I felt I knew these characters, as if they were people in my school or community. 200 pages into the novel, I was enthralled.

Then, as I read on, my enthusiasm waned. The story went on too long; many of the characters became tedious in their self absorption, and, in my opinion, the author seemed to be enjoying his o
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way...In short, the seventies were ending.

I was there! And just exactly like the charac
Rachael Sherwood
Crossing California is the story of three families living in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL and takes place during the Iran Hostage Crisis. While the country transitions from the Carter years to the beginning of the 1980s and Reaganomics, the three families also find themselves going through major transitions.

I picked up this book simply because I live in Rogers Park and figured even if I didn't care for it, I could still learn a bit about my neighborhood's history and enjoy re
As far as I'm concerned, this book and its sequel, The Washington Story, are must-reads. Together, they cover around a decade in the lives of a bunch of Jewish kids growing up on Chicago's north side. They are long, dense, and really funny (I don't tend to laugh a lot when reading, but these books did it). I'd read another one tomorrow.
adam langer is OBSESSIVELY attentive to detail. the sheer number of pronouns in this book is probably more than in any book i've ever read. he faithfully, resolutely, precisely "reps the hood", not only his hood, but his hood, west rogers park, at a very specific point in time--1979-1981, when being liberal was on its way "out" and reaganism/reaganomics was taking over. my aunts used to live in a bungalow on morse in rogers park, so some places he mentioned were familiar, like fluky's. not only ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Until recently, Langer was known primarily as a playwright and the author of a film festival compendium, but that's about to change. Reviewers have heaped the kind of praise on Crossing California for which most first-time novelists would sacrifice their coffee and nicotine. Critics zeroed in on Langer's biting wit (the youngest Rovner's song, "My Love Ain't Always Orthodox," is a particular fave) and lauded his depiction of youthful disaffection, embodied in characters like Jill, the intellectu

2.5 Portrayal of the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago and its mostly Jewish inhabitants around 1979-1981. Started strong, but there were too many characters to keep track of (and the author seemed obsessed with masturbation, oy!)After a while, I just wanted to get the book finished, the characters became tiresome and the ending was sudden. I turned the page expecting there to be another chapter, but there wasn't. This is the first in what I guess is a trilogy. Too bad, I had high hopes for th ...more
I rate this book a solid three stars or a weak four stars. I had very high expectations going into this book. One, because my partner grew up in Rogers Park in the 70's and I have heard numerous stories about it and Two, because I lived in Chicago in a neighborhood just south of Rogers Park and have been there many times and know the neighborhood myself.

There is a lot of detail about the area. It really brings the neighborhood to life and in many ways, Rogers Park is the star of the book rather
Jan 05, 2010 Gabby rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Gabby by: Entertainment Weekly Magazine
Shelves: 2009
The first review I read about this book gave me the impression that the Americans taken hostage from the Iranian embassy under the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini played some part in the substance of this story. Only insofar as a time reference does the hostage crisis have any bearing on any part of the story that takes place in Crossing California. That misunderstanding coupled with the misleading title of this book made it somewhat disappointing for me from the beginning. Crossing California ...more
An interesting novel set to the duration of the Iran hostage captivity between 1979 thru 1981, Langer's piece tracks the lives of three interconnected families who live in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Chicago. This is a work heavily influenced by the cultural norms and idiosyncracies of Jewish life and for those not familar with some of the societal specifics of this religion, it can be both very interesting but also sometimes a distraction. The many characters take a bit to get used t ...more
Lindsay Edwardson
This book is incredible! It takes place in Chicago from 1979-1981. It is the story of a small number of people whose lives are all intertwined in various ways. I thought it was really fun to read because of all of the places that are mentioned that I live around or know about. Also, I think that the characterization is great. The characters all seem very real and honest. I think that any student from the Chicagoland area would appreciate reading this because they would be familiar with the area. ...more
Aug 04, 2009 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: humor
Crossing California revealed both the complexities and basic elements of human nature and captured a very distinct mood in American history. Although the novel may have intended to capture a specific time and mood in Chicago, I definitely think it reflects a relatable mood inherent in all Americans even thirty years after the period described in the novel. Disillusionment in our socio-economic and political lives, the paradox of yearning for change yet resisting it, struggling with identity, and ...more
Some great scenes and X-rays of the west Rogers Park neighborhood in NE Chicago, circa 1979-1980; author Langer offers up this microcosm with the most meticulous attention to detail and authenticity. Every imaginable musical, religious, cultural, political, and linguistic reference related to that time and place is used, accurately, in this novel about growing up (smart and/or smartass teens) and growing older (their parents, still kicking but facing midlife with uncertainty). He manages to catc ...more
Karen Germain
This book jumped out at me as I was browsing at Borders. I had never heard of it and didn't know much of what to expect. The book is set during the late 70's/ early 80's in a suburb of Chicago. The neighborhood is pretty much central to the story and a character in it's own right. The weird coincidence that I discovered within the first chapter, is a guy that I had a crush on for all of high school and most of my twenties, moved to this neighborhood when I was in tenth grade. His street is the s ...more
I saw Jonathan Safran Foer speak at a reading a couple of years ago, and he mentioned that there are a lot of books that you read and like, or even that you love, but there are only very few books that you read and you feel as if they were written especially for you. I felt like this book was written especially for me. One of the central characters is a nerdy 13-year old girl interested in politics and journalism; her best friend starts out as a tape cutter at the public radio station and ends u ...more
In the weirdest confluence of events (is that right? eh, don't tell me if it's not; I like the way it sounds), our July bookgroup choice was Crossing California. We received it on Thursday the 14th, a mere three days before I had tickets to go see Katie in an adaptation of the selfsame book! I started the book, saw the play, then finished the book. It was nice to have a sense of character going into the play, although it was a little difficult to get them back to how I originally pictured them w ...more
As the title suggests, there’s a lot of movement in “Crossing California.” Movement across social and cultural lines (the stretch of California Avenue in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago is seen as a dividing line between the well-to-do and the not-quite-there), movement from childhood to adolescence, movement out of marriage, movement past grief, and movement into a new era (end of the ‘70s/start of the ‘80s; Carter into Reagan). Everybody’s moving, but most would rather stay put.

I tried to read this a number of times and I am glad I finally did. Crossing California follows the lives of three Rogers Park based Jewish families over a two year period (from November 1979 to January 1981). It is a coming of age book and most of the story focuses on the lives of the Wasserstroms (Jill and Michelle and father Charlie), the Wills (Muley and mother Deirdre) and Rovner (Lana and Larry and their parents, Michael and Ellen). I liked the seemingly accurate depiction of this turn of ...more
So if I took this book to be the definition of mankind this is what I would have learned: When you are in middle school you are sad and troubled and overly concerned about the world, when you are in high school you are smarter than all adults and you only think about sex, when you are an adult you still only think about sex but you are now crazy and have no emotional connection to anything/one. I liked Langer's style of writing and I enjoyed how the stories overlapped and intricately tied togeth ...more
This novel is a meandering tour through two generations of distinct, yet intertwining Chicago families. My favorite character, by far, was the thoroughly unlikeable Lana Rovner, possibly the most annoying 7th grader I've ever met in fiction or reality. Lana manages to be both a manipulative and ambitious snob as well as an awkward and painfully naive tween.

Langer sets the novel against the backdrop of the Iran hostage crisis, ending on Inauguration Day, 1981. Why these 444 days? As Langer writes
i fucking love this book. i also love nostalgia for the late 70's/early 80's chicago, right as i was being born. this book is about when and where i was born, in jewish western rogers park in chicago. there's a map in the front that includes landmarks that i actually remember from being a wee kiddo, like the radio shack and warren park. i kinda expected this book to be mediocre and i would love it anyway, but instead it is wonderful. it's mostly about teenagers, their social lives, their familie ...more
Amber Rolih
I was recommended this book by someone that lives in the neighborhood where the book takes place. Ironically, after reading the book, I moved into a neighborhood that is right next to where the book takes place. The neighborhood is Rogers Park which is in north Chicago and is a highly Jewish neighborhood.
While the book follows the events of a couple of Jewish teens, it also focuses heavily on the streets that they call home and the significance of crossing certain territories.
This book might ta
I'm adding this book to my list of favorite Chicago stories (California refers to the street that divides a Rogers Park neighborhood). What a great cast of characters! I think Michelle Wasserstrom is one of the most richly drawn characters I've read in a long time. She'll remind you of someone you've known at some point in your life, guaranteed.

This is one of those books where you have a bunch of separate, yet related stories that intersect and overlap with each other throughout -- but the auth
Dec 13, 2013 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Chicagoans of a certain age
This book hit me right in my demographic: I was in jr. high and living on the north side of Chicago during the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-80. The only thing I didn't have in common with these kids is I was not Jewish; however, their experiences and the times transcend that difference. Besides, I would've given my eyeteeth (and thrown in my older brother too) to be on a kid's radio show back then! Maybe that'd still be true now....

So I really liked this book for the memories of the time & pl
I wish I could give this book 3.5 stars, as I'm somewhere between like it and really liked it.

"Crossing California" is set in Chicago, Rogers Park and West Rogers Park (very close to the neighborhood I live in!) It chronicles the angsty lives of a group of pre-teens and teens that live on both the east and west sides of California Avenue (hence the title!). The older crowd experiments with drugs, alcohol and sex. The younger set gets Bat Mizvahed, learns to make out (well, some of them) and wor
I was looking forward to reading this as it had three things going for it: Jewish life, the 1980s & being set in Chicago. I figured with those three factors in its favor, how could it go wrong? Boy, was I mistaken. Somehow, Langer managed to write a book that did not hold my interest one bit. I couldn't get invested in the character's lives at all and found the book to be lacking in both character development and plot (which are both necessities in my opinion). It also drug on for what seeme ...more
I grew up in the West Rogers Park neighborhood that served as the setting for this book. Although my Chicago days were slightly prior to the time line in the story, many of the places mentioned in the novel were real to me and brought back many memories of growing up in this part of the big city. The characters were composites of people I knew and the Mather H.S. where the main characters went to school had just been built when I lived there. I thought Langer did a nice job of bringing back to l ...more
Amy Formanski Duffy
Aug 07, 2007 Amy Formanski Duffy added it
Recommends it for: Chicagoans, Gen X-ers
My lord, it took me longer than I expected to get through this book. It's really fun, but long for a coming-of-age type novel. Anyone who grew up in Chicago will get a kick out of the MANY references to local sites. A reviewer referred to this book as "hyperdetailed" and that is pretty accurate. There are four families living in West Rogers Park around 1979-1980. There are some characters that are charming and quirky, and others that are downright annoying. All their stories intertwine. It was a ...more
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Adam Langer is a journalist, author, playwright and filmmaker.

His work has been featured most recently on NPR's Selected Shorts, in The Best Men's Stage Monologues 2000, and The Best Women's Stage Monologues 2000, as well as in the Chicago Reader's Fiction Issue, and in the literary magazine Salt Hill. His plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and numerous othe
More about Adam Langer...
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