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Readers get two stories for the price of one in this witty and informative memoir. Journalist Arellano (¡Ask a Mexican!) chronicles the sweet-and-sour story of his family's assimilation into American culture, while also recounting a historical narrative at odds with the bucolic ideal of a place that's been mythologized for decades. "We're so American, so Orange County, that we're even prone to romanticize a past that never existed." Arellano's structure keeps the narrative moving along at a snappy pace, alternating the threads of the story so "odd chapters constitute the memoir, even chapters tell the history, and one complements the other." Readers get solid background on the beginning of master-planned communities during the 1920s, the little remembered Citrus War, Orange County's embarrassing 1994 bankruptcy and special mix of conservatism coupled with a dollop of big-time religion. "A 2005 Harper's article named Orange County the country's second hotbed of evangelical Christianity after Colorado Springs," Arellano writes, and of the 100 megachurches in the U.S. with the largest congregations, four are in Orange County. Arellano explores a place he calls the "Petri dish for America's continuing democratic experiment" and delivers a prescient view of the new American landscape. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.