Your House Will Pay: The deadly consequences of race conflict
Book review: Steph Cha’s deftly written novel explores Los Angeles in 1991 and 2019
Steph Cha: her novel is an original story that seeks to tell two very different sides
Two households, similar in dignity but worlds apart in culture and race, are at the centre of Steph Cha’s deftly written novel Your House Will Pay. The deadly consequences of racial tensions make for stark reading in this tale of two families united forever by a random act of violence. Set in Los Angeles, the dual narratives take place in 2019 and 1991, the latter an infamous year for the City of Angels, where the beating of a black man, Rodney King, by police officers led to riots a year later when the officers involved were acquitted.
Though Cha’s novel is fictional, it was inspired by the real life story of Latasha Harlins, a black teenager shot in the back of the head in 1991 in a Korean deli and liquor market. In Your House Will Pay, this girl is Ava Matthews, a young adult who loses her life in similar circumstances. A fraught opening section narrated by her younger brother Shawn prefigures the violence: four black teens are queuing for a popular movie when white officials become alarmed at the crowds and shut the theatre down, refusing to refund tickets. Rioting and looting ensues, in a tense scene where Shawn barely makes it back to his sister.