Your House Will Pay, Steph Cha, Ecco, 2019, 244 pp
I read this for my One Book At A Time reading group. It was my suggestion and we all found it amazing.
The story concerns racial tension in Los Angeles and is told from the viewpoints of two families, one African American, one Korean American.
In 1991, at the time of the Rodney King beating, a Korean American woman shot and killed Ava Matthews, an African American teenager who she thought was shoplifting in her pharmacy. The woman was charged with manslaughter but got off with no jail time.
Almost three decades later, the relatives of the Black victim and a daughter of the Korean family come into conflict again.
Grace Park was in the womb when her mother shot Ava Matthews. She grew up never knowing what her mother did. Now, thanks to her older sister, she does.
Shawn Matthews, brother of Ava, has served time in prison, as has his cousin Ray. Now they are both trying to live right but it's a struggle everyday.
When another shocking murder rocks Los Angeles, the families collide.
Steph Cha based her Ava Matthews on a real character and a real case from 1991. In fictionalizing the story she sought to show the tensions as well as the possibility for reconciliation between the two families.
Because the members of our reading group have all lived in the Los Angeles area for many years, we know of all these incidents, especially the Rodney King case, the resulting riots, and the tensions in South Central. For us, the novel brought a much deeper understanding of what life is like for such families, the trauma they carry, the resentments between them, the faulty working of law enforcement and the courts.
Perhaps for non-Angelenos, the impact would not hit so close to home but it would still give readers an accurate look behind the scenes of racial tension in any of our cities.
Steph Cha is Korean American, born in Korea Town, Los Angeles, in 1986. She has written a crime series featuring Juniper Song, a Korean American private investigator. Your House Will Pay is her fourth novel.