Tropic of Orange

A Novel by Karen Tei Yamashita

“Fiercely satirical. . . . Yamashita presents [an] intricate plot with mordant wit.” —New York Times Book Review

September 1997
6 x 9 | 280 pages
Paperback Original

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

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ISBN: 978-1-56689-064-9.



Irreverently juggling magical realism, film noir, hip hop, and chicanismo, Karen Yamashita presents an L.A. where the homeless, gangsters, infant organ entrepreneurs, and Hollywood collide on a stretch of highway struck by disaster. The Harbor Freeway crisis becomes the apex of events—caused by an orange, which has been brought to L.A. from just north of Mazatlan, dragging with it the Tropic of Cancer.

Rafaela, caretaking Gabriel’s getaway home in Mexico, discovers a dealer of human body parts and flees north, joining a performer/laborer named Arcangel. Meanwhile, Gabriel, a news reporter in L.A., has been following leads in which seemingly unrelated events mysteriously unite as the homeless take up residence in abandoned Mercedes, lowriders, and Cads, and an aged Asian American sansei conducts symphonies from a freeway overpass.

Emi, T.V. executive and Gabriel’s girlfirend, along with Buzzworm, his connection to the streets, get caught in the middle of this mounting wildfire just as the cast of characters—diverse as the city itself—assembles for the final events. Tropic of Orange is an apocalypse of race, class, and culture, fanned by the media under the harsh LA. sun. Essential reading for the twenty-first century.


1997 Paterson Fiction Prize Finalist


“Fiercely satirical. . . . Yamashita presents [an] intricate plot with mordant wit.” —New York Times Book Review

“A stunner.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Brilliant. . . . An ingenious interpretation of social woes.” —Booklist (starred review)

“David Foster Wallace meets Gabriel García Márquez.” —Publishers Weekly

“Yamashita’s fast-paced and bittersweet tale ties together all classes, races and nationalities in a cosmic vision that is both well-written and entertaining.” —Counterpoise