- Features - Los Angeles magazine

Author Jesse Katz

  • Jesse Katz

    Jesse Katz is a contributing writer at Los Angeles magazine and the author of a memoir, The Opposite Field. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he has earned numerous honors over a three-decade career, including two Pulitzer Prizes for spot news reporting (shared with the Times metro staff), the PEN Center USA award for literary journalism, and the James Beard Foundation’s M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Jesse has taught literary journalism at the University of California, Irvine, and he has mentored incarcerated teenagers as a volunteer at California Youth Authority.


Back Story: The Test Of Their Lives

For several years I had been filling a folder labeled aca-deca with newspaper clippings about the triumphs of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s academic decathlon program. Somewhere in the first paragraph, invariably, was a reference to either Taft or El Camino Real, the twin Woodland Hills powerhouses that have gone on to win eight U.S. Academic Decathlon titles. It was always a pleasant surprise to see L.A. teenagers hailed as masters of the brainiac universe. I kept thinking a story lurked in there, a bright spot in a maligned district. Read more...