On December 28, 2009, Carla Sameth was just another passenger minding her business while riding the Metro Gold Line train when a group of LA County Sheriff’s deputies asked to see her rail pass. When she couldn’t find it easily, they asked her to get off the train — and while she was being searched suddenly had her head slammed into a concrete column three times by a female deputy simply for complaining that the pat-down she was administering was hurting her.
The result was a total nightmare in which longtime Pasadena resident Sameth suffered a severely broken nose and other head injuries, only to be subjected to further verbal cruelty by the deputies. But she was able to strike back later thanks to the fact she was a skilled and professional writer.
She soon wrote a cover story about her experience for Pasadena Weekly and wound up receiving a $199,000 settlement from LA County for her ordeal. Ten years later, Sameth is revisiting that experience, and sharing plenty of other memorable meditations on race, culture and family, in the new memoir “One Day on the Gold Line.”
She will sign and discuss the tome Wednesday at the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles in downtown LA, and on August 29 with Weekly editor Kevin Uhrich at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.
“I think I began thinking about doing a memoir a good number of years ago from when I first started trying to have a child after repeat miscarriages,” says Sameth. “I wanted to write about embarking on contemporary parenting and motherhood, single parenthood, blended family and all the issues involved. I thought as a reader I was looking for those stories — on pregnancy loss and later on with the issue of addiction which my teenage son had dealt with and overcome.
“It was suggested I write a memoir of linked essays as opposed to an essay collection, and I really focused on it the last couple of years,” she adds. “The title is metaphorical, about the sheriff incident but also of the aspiration of looking to build family and have this great idea of happy chaos. The Gold Line represents the aspiration, but the reality is not always pretty.”
Sameth’s book covers a wide range of topics, reflecting the diverse array of experiences that have defined her life. She has a bi-racial son from a past marriage, but later married a woman and identifies as queer. Sameth has also worked in public relations and teaches creative writing at the Los Angeles Writing Project (LAWP) at Cal State LA and with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
She was recently selected to be a 2019 “Pride Poet” participating in the city of West Hollywood’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. Sameth is a member of the Pasadena Rose Poets who present “poetry within reach and in unexpected places.”
She was the co-founder of the Pasadena Writing Project and has taught creative writing to incarcerated youth through WriteGirl. She played an instrumental role in building a career and education outreach program for Latinas at Women at Work, and her goal is to give a voice to those who might not otherwise have one and to offer hope for change.
“It’s really important when we go into these places, as a reader and writer to let the light in, resilience and joy,” says Sameth. “A lot of people commented on that essay and I had people for years come up to me of every ethnicity, background, older, younger, homeless who had gone through similar experience with law enforcement and that It was really helpful to read it. It broadened their idea of how this could happen to anyone.”
Carla Sameth will discuss and sign “One Day on the Gold Line” at 7:30 p.m. Wed. at The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. Call (213) 488-0559. She will also sign and discuss the book with PW Editor Kevin Uhrich at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320. The book may be ordered on Amazon, found at independent bookstores across Los Angeles and at carlasameth.com/books.