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DJ WALDIE


Nobody “sees” Los Angeles with more eloquence than D. J. Waldie.

– Susan Brenneman, Los Angeles Times Deputy Op-Ed Editor (2014)

Waldie ... is one of the writers responsible for developing a Southern California aesthetic in which what’s most vivid about the place is everything we might take for granted somewhere else.

– David Ulin, Los Angeles Times book critic (2014)

Waldie's meditation on suburbia finds the beauty in wonky detail and weaves a wholly unconventional narrative. I'd put this book up against the best of Baudrillard and Banham.

– Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. The World (2016)

Only a writer as good as D. J. Waldie could turn houses tented for termite spraying into a poignant piece on life in Southern California.

– Sara Libby, Voice of San Diego (2016)

D. J. Waldie’s … essays and memoirs conjure the idiosyncratic splendor of Southern California life.

– Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times (2017)

Holy Land, a sparse, yet pointed memoir … has quickly inserted itself into the canon of modern suburban and cultural landscape studies. Holy Land grapples with race, class, and the contradictions of suburban production while simultaneously demanding that suburbs—and suburbanites—be treated with a sense of compassion and respect.

– Alex Schafran, lecturer in Urban Studies, University of Leeds (2017)

More than anything I’ve ever read, (Holy Land) captures the torment and tenderness of the mundane and how that is shaped by our environment.

– Ryan Enos, author of The Space Between Us: Social Geography and Politics (2017)

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DJ WALDIE


Nobody “sees” Los Angeles with more eloquence than D. J. Waldie.

– Susan Brenneman, Los Angeles Times Deputy Op-Ed Editor (2014)

Waldie ... is one of the writers responsible for developing a Southern California aesthetic in which what’s most vivid about the place is everything we might take for granted somewhere else.

– David Ulin, Los Angeles Times book critic (2014)

Waldie's meditation on suburbia finds the beauty in wonky detail and weaves a wholly unconventional narrative. I'd put this book up against the best of Baudrillard and Banham.

– Jade Chang, author of The Wangs vs. The World (2016)

Only a writer as good as D. J. Waldie could turn houses tented for termite spraying into a poignant piece on life in Southern California.

– Sara Libby, Voice of San Diego (2016)

D. J. Waldie’s … essays and memoirs conjure the idiosyncratic splendor of Southern California life.

– Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times (2017)

Holy Land, a sparse, yet pointed memoir … has quickly inserted itself into the canon of modern suburban and cultural landscape studies. Holy Land grapples with race, class, and the contradictions of suburban production while simultaneously demanding that suburbs—and suburbanites—be treated with a sense of compassion and respect.

– Alex Schafran, lecturer in Urban Studies, University of Leeds (2017)

More than anything I’ve ever read, (Holy Land) captures the torment and tenderness of the mundane and how that is shaped by our environment.

– Ryan Enos, author of The Space Between Us: Social Geography and Politics (2017)

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D. J. Waldie is a cultural historian, memoirist, and translator. In books, essays, and online commentary, he has sought to frame the suburban experience as a search for a sense of place. Often using his hometown of Lakewood as a starting point, Waldie’s work ranges widely over the history of suburbanization and its cultural effects.

He has published five non-fiction books, each dealing with different aspects of everyday life. Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir (Norton, 1996; revised edition, 2005) explored the intersection of personality and place in Lakewood, California. Real City: Downtown Los Angeles Inside/Out (Angel City Press, 2001), a collaboration with photographer Marissa Roth, observed downtown Los Angeles as it transitioned to its newest incarnation. Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles (Angel City Press, 2004) collected a decade of Waldie’s essays and observations about the city’s rapid evolution. Close to Home: An American Album (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004) is a meditation on the American snapshot and its place in the narratives of everyday lives. No Circus (Damiani, 2016), a collaboration with photographer Randi Malkin Steinberger, considers the phenomenology of houses tented for fumigation. 

In collaboration with Diane Keaton, Waldie provided the text for two photographic explorations of home: California Romantica (Rizzoli, 2007), dealing with homes in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style of the early 20th century, and House (Rizzoli, 2012), examining post-modern interpretations of domesticity. California Romantica became a Los Angeles Times non-fiction bestseller in 2007. 

His most recent publications are “It can go any way it wants, and I’ll still be here. Ruscha, LA, and a Sense of Place in the West,” included in the exhibition catalog for “Ed Ruscha and the Great American West” (De Young Museum, San Francisco published by the University of California Press, 2016); “Suburban Holy Land,” a chapter in Infinite Suburbia, (Princeton Architectural Press, 2017); and “A River Still Runs Through It,” a cultural and social history of the Los Angeles River accompanying L.A. River, a photographic exploration of the river today (George F. Thompson Publishing, 2019). 

Selections from Holy Land were included in the anthology Writing from Los Angeles (Library of America, 2003), as well as in the California Uncovered (California Council for the Humanities anthology, 2005) and in The Suburb Reader (Routledge, 2006). 

Holy Land received the California Book Award for nonfiction in 1996. In 2004, Where We Are Now was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times. The anthology Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape (Trinity University Press, 2006), to which Waldie contributed, was named one of the best non-fiction books of year by National Public Radio, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Kansas City Star. In 2007, the New York Times described his writing as “a gorgeous distillation of architectural and social history.” In 2008, novelist and memoirist Patricia Hampl (writing in Commonweal magazine) declared Waldie’s Holy Land “a classic of American autobiography.” In 2010, his memoir of growing up in suburban Los Angeles County in the 1950s was optioned by James Franco for a film project. Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California (University of California Press 2012), to which he contributed, was named one of the best non-fiction books of the year by the Los Angeles Public Library. 

In 1994, Waldie received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in Creative Nonfiction and the William Allen White Memorial Medal for excerpts from Holy Land published in BUZZ magazine. In 1996, Waldie was awarded a California Arts Council Fellowship. In 1998, he received a Whiting Writers Award from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation of New York. In 2006, Waldie was named by Los Angeles magazine as one of the “100 influentials” of Los Angeles. He received the J. Thomas Owen History Award from the Los Angeles City Historical Society in 2014. In 2017, he was awarded the William R. and June Dale Prize for Urban and Regional Planning (administered by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona). In presenting the award, the Dale Prize committee noted that, “in books, essays, presentations, and commentary on urban issues, Waldie has sought to frame the suburban experience as a search for a sense of place for millions of ordinary Californians. Often using his hometown of Lakewood as a starting point, Waldie’s work ranges widely over the history of suburbanization and its cultural effects.” 

D. J. Waldie’s narratives about suburban life have appeared in BUZZ magazine, the Kenyon Review, the Massachusetts Review, the Georgetown Review, Salon, dwell, Los Angeles magazine, Spiritus, Gulf Coast, Urbanisme, Bauwelt, and other publications. His book reviews and commentary have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. His online essays for KCET have explored the cultural and political histories of Los Angeles. He is a long-time contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times

D. J. Waldie has lectured on the social and cultural history of California at the Internationalen Literaturfestivals Berlin, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the New York Institute for the Humanities, as well as at Cal Tech, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, the Art Center College of Design, California College of the Arts, the University of Minnesota, the University of Maryland, California State University Fullerton and CSU Long Beach, New York University, Antioch University, Scripps College, Loyola Marymount University, the University of Southern California, and at the campuses of the University of California at Irvine, San Diego, Davis, and Los Angeles. 

He delivered the annual Haynes Foundation Lecture in 2003. He participated in the series of lectures and performances inaugurating the Walt Disney Concert Hall and performed with the Just Strings Ensemble at the Getty Museum in 2004. Waldie was a member of the delegation of Los Angeles writers and filmmakers invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to participate in the Guadalajara International Book Festival in 2009. 

His work as a translator of the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé has been featured in exhibitions at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the Langson Library at the University of California Irvine, and the Clark Humanities Museum at Scripps College, and during the Mallarmé centenary symposium at the City University of New York. His translation of Mallarmé’s book-length poem Un coup de dés/A Throw of the Dice (published in 1991 by Greenhouse Review Press) is in the special collections of the Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet (Paris), the Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), as well as the libraries of Princeton, Brown, UCLA, USC, Yale, and Harvard. This translation was reprinted, along with a brief memoir (“The Ghost of an Obsession”), in Parnassus: Poetry in Review in 2005 and as a chapter in The Lost Origins of the Essay (Graywolf Press, 2009). 

D. J. Waldie lives in Lakewood, California in the house his parents bought in 1946. He was born in 1948. He attended California State University, Long Beach (then a California state college) and the University of California, Irvine, where he was a Regents Intern Fellow in Comparative Literature. He received an MA in Comparative Literature from UC Irvine in 1974. In the mid-1970s, he taught at California State University, Long Beach in the Department of Comparative Literature and the University Honors Program. 

Waldie began his career in public administration in Lakewood in 1977. He served as the city's Public Information Officer between 1981 and 2009. He retired as Deputy City Manager of Lakewood in 2010.