For Ontresicia Averette, the eruption of the race riots in Los Angeles in April 1992 was more than a shocking news story. It was the height of the conflict that ensued following the arrest and beating of her cousin, Rodney King, but it was also a climactic point in her own struggle as a young black woman living and working under racial discrimination and sexual harassment in Southern California.
The story of her own struggle, as well as her dynamic with her cousin, King, is the theme of her book "Broken Spirits: A letter to my Cousin, Rodney King," which she will talk about at an event Saturday at the Railroad Book Depot in Pittsburg -- her hometown.
The book chronicles her own life in the 1980s and 1990s in the Los Angeles area, where she has lived for the last 30 years after moving out of Pittsburg.
"It is a piece of history," Averette said. "It's (about) what was the state of affairs in this country in terms of race relations."
Working at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1980s, Averette said she endured years of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, which prepared her for King's beating and the racially charged violence in Los Angeles that followed.
Now a project manager for Kaiser Permanente and a resident of Pasadena, Averette wants to promote her story in hers and King's native Pittsburg, she said.
"Some people in the area had bought the book and said, 'you should get the book out here,' " she explained. "Pittsburg is far away, and I thought, I'm from there, why not?"
"I think this is a good choice for us for Black History Month," said Judy O'Connor, a senior associate at Railroad Book Depot, who helps coordinate regular local author events and book signings. "She sent me a copy of her book, and we will continue to sell it (in the store)."
Averette finished and published "Broken Spirits" two years ago in an effort to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots. King himself had worked on a memoir, but when he died shortly after her book was finished, Averette ceased all promotion of the independently published book.
"It was devastating to me," she said. "We were very close -- like brothers and sisters."
Now, she wants to get her story out, and is embarking on a series of book signings in Southern California, as well as the event in Pittsburg. "I think it's important that this is a big piece of history -- what happened, what I went through, what I saw, and it's important to tie it into this area," Averette said. "This area delivered someone who is a part of something."
WHAT: Book signing of "Broken Spirits"
WHO: Ontresicia Averette
WHEN: 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 22
WHERE: Railroad Book Depot at 650 Railroad Ave. in Pittsburg