Capturing an ever-changing San Francisco, 25 acclaimed writers tell their stories of living in one of the most mesmerizing cities in the world.
Over the last few decades, San Francisco has experienced radical changes with the influence of Silicon Valley, tech companies, and more. Countless articles, blogs, and even movies have tried to capture the complex nature of what San Francisco has become, a place millions of people have loved to call home, and yet are compelled to consider leaving. In this beautifully written collection, writers take on this Bay Area-dweller's eternal conflict: Should I stay or should I go?
Including an introduction written by Gary Kamiya and essays from Margaret Cho, W. Kamau Bell, Michelle Tea, Beth Lisick, Daniel Handler, Bonnie Tsui, Stuart Schuffman, Alysia Abbott, Peter Coyote, Alia Volz, Duffy Jennings, John Law, and many more, The End of the Golden Gate is a penetrating journey that illuminates both what makes San Francisco so magnetizing and how it has changed vastly over time, shapeshifting to become something new for each generation of city dwellers.
With essays chronicling the impact of the tech-industry invasion and the evolution, gentrification, and radical cost of living that has transformed San Francisco's most beloved neighborhoods, these prescient essayists capture the lasting imprint of the 1960s counterculture movement, as well as the fight to preserve the art, music, and other creative movements that make this forever the city of love.
For anyone considering moving to San Francisco, wishing to relive the magic of the city, or anyone experiencing the sadness of leaving the bay—and ultimately, for anyone that needs a reminder of why we stay.
Bound to be a long-time staple of San Francisco literature, anyone who has lived in or is currently living in San Francisco will enjoy the rich history of the city within these pages and relive intimate memories of their own.
• GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY: A percentage of the proceeds will be given to charities that help those in the bay experiencing homelessness. Every copy purchased offers a small way to help those in need.
Understandably, where I am there is a long library queue for this book so when it was ready for pick up I had to borrow it or wait a very long time to read it. I was probably more in the mood for a novel or a non-fiction book with a single long narrative. I love biographical essays but I think I was not in the mood for them at the time I was reading this book.
There are many contributors. Some of the pieces are great and some I was tempted to skim and some are good or good enough. Most I’m glad that I read.
What the whole of the collection did was confirm to me what I already knew but maybe more so: that San Francisco has changed and that I haven’t changed with it.
I did feel represented in some of these accounts. Most of them I did not. Of course, San Francisco has ALWAYS been many San Franciscos/multifaceted. Most of the contributors are not San Francisco natives and many were not residents of San Francisco for that long, relatively speaking. I would have appreciated even more lifelong or at least decades long San Franciscans being included.
It was enjoyable to read about others’ experiences.
What I did love about this book is that while with most of the essays I caught only glimpses of “my San Francisco” the essays got me thinking about how in my nearly seven decades relationship with the city I’ve also known and experienced many versions of San Francisco.
I did particularly appreciate the essays written by Stuart Schuffman, Duffy Jennings, Grant Faulkner, Gary Kamiya, and especially loved the one by Peter Coyote, and the one by Elizabeth Khuri Chandler because even though she doesn’t talk much about experiencing the city she does talk a lot about Goodreads and that essay happened to be the most effective at getting my understanding about what happened at Goodreads from its inception and especially the reasons for what happened in 2013 and then what also happened six years after that. I should also mention the essays by Ginna Green, Alia Volz, and Larry Smith (husband of Piper Kerman.)
Overall, I was left feeling more than a bit melancholy and not feeling the sense of belonging I’d hoped I’d feel, yet I still want all my San Francisco/San Francisco Bay Area friends and all my friends who’ve left the area to read this book. It’s interesting and thought provoking and worth reading. Highly recommended for readers interested in past and present San Francisco!
I really enjoyed Gary Kamiya's two books on San Francisco, so this one seemed promising. It was a huge disappointment; in fact, his intro and essay were the best thing about this collection of whiny and self-centered essays. Everything used to be better, the tech bros ruined everything, baby boomers complain about improper composting, rents are too high, I am discriminated against, my relationship failed...and the list goes on. Maybe it was just aimed at a different audience, but for this reader who enjoys reading about the City By The Bay, it just didn't work.
Highly recommended for those who like good writing, and for those who care about San Francisco.
I asked for this book for my birthday, and I'm glad I did. After asking, but before receiving the book, I read a review that was very hard on the book, on grounds that seemed convincing at the time. But I thought, I'm going to enjoy it anyway, and I did. I'm likely to re-read it, many of the essays were that good. Or maybe it's just that they give me so much to think about, as a long-term resident?
The complaint that the book is incoherent, with each writer coming at the story with a different time frame, etc., actually turns out to be a strength, in my view. In fact, the book not only reminds me that each new arrival has a different perspective, but that even people who were born here have all different perspectives. Not that there should be anything surprising about that, right? But what it reminds us is that, as much as we have our own perspective, we also want our perspective to be validated by others. So it's not enough that we all blame the same villains, we have to blame them for the same things, for the same reasons, etc. Not likely, not anywhere, and especially not in SF.
So I enjoyed Margaret Cho's wonderful piece even though it is nothing like Peter Coyote's excellent piece. And as much as I appreciated those perspectives, I think I ended up identifying most with Gary Kamiya's piece ("San Francisco is My Home"), in which he confesses his fear of becoming the cranky old man yelling "get off my lawn" (the lawn being SF) at the latest arrivals, for not living up to his vision of the city. He also reminds us that whatever nostalgic version of the city we are pining for, it never really existed. Nostalgia is natural, he reminds us, but dangerous if you invest in it too much. Now I'm putting my spin on his essay, which is natural, too. If I have to leave here, I'll do well to remember the time I had here with love, and if I stay, I'll do well to value every day for whatever it brings, not for how well it matches my expectations.
Fun fact: The founder of goodreads contributed one of the essays (she left, and now lives in my dream home of the South of France, the only place enough like California that I'd be glad to move). I enjoyed her essay, mostly because it made me glad that I was too old to get caught up in software start-up culture; it's exhausting just to read about it.
This book is the summer selection of the SF Book Club.
What an exasperating read (and listen). Some stories soared and captured the crackle of San Francisco at distinct points in time. Others induced much eye rolling. From the back patting (I set up non-prof y, I discovered this coffee place all on my own, I hung out at Zeitgeist when it was still cool) to the bitter sounding authors blaming, most recently "tech bros" for "ruining" their versions of SF. Maybe look in the mirror? I think Alia Volz (author of Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco - check it out) captures it best in Spit Shake by conveying that the SF of one's memories doesn't exist and never really did. It's always changing. The city doesn't owe anybody anything. But SF doesn't need me to defend her.
Adding to the negatives - the audiobook was a joke. From flat delivery that sounds like Alexa is reading to you to mispronounciations that take you right out of the story. Lake Merced, Bernal Heights, Cafe du Nord, Duboce Triangle. Palahniuk! For a project so close to the contributors it seems the audio could have used more care and editing.
To live in San Francisco is to constantly hand wring about what it means to be living in San Francisco—It’s sort of a joke among us transplants (which is most of us) that no matter when you arrived here you’ve already missed it and your experience isn’t really true. I arrived in 1990 and over the next 30+ years, I got married here, bought a house here, had a career here, raised two kids here, and yet I still have this nagging feeling I don’t have a right to belong here. But here I am.
This is a collection of essays from 25 writers musing on about why they either left San Francisco or why they’ve stayed. The writers and their experiences span from the 1960s on but is heavy on 1990s and 2000s nostalgia. There's an unstated hypothesis that the latest influx of tech culture and wealth starting in roughly 2008* has finally and truly killed The City That Knows How.
Maybe. I dunno.
But on a personal note, there’s enough shared nostalgia from the 1990s in these pages to make me finally realize I do, and have always, belonged here and my San Francisco is just as valid as any other San Francisco. (Hey—I remember the Red Man, the White Lady, Bum Jovi, Herb Cain, Live at Leeds, etc., etc., etc.—so get off my back.)
*Perhaps sneakily included as corroborating evidence, the two essays written by tech transplants (including the founder of Goodreads) are truly obnoxious.
I agree with many of our other Goodreads reviewers - some of these essays are wonderful and others eye-rolling - particularly the one from the Goodreads cofounder. Sorry but that one read as 100% self-absorbed whining. At first I thought it was a low point of the book but once I got to the end, realized that this is the exact type of person so many of the other authors can't stand so if you are not familiar with San Francisco, it gives you the perfect flavor of why 'techies' are not liked.
Everyone's San Francisco experience is unique and special to them. I've lived in the Bay Area since 2010 could relate to many of these essays. I really LOVED the essays by Alia Volz Sarah Coglianese, Larry Smith and so many other. But what was missing for me is Mark Morford. Where was a Mark Morford essay!!!
Mixed thoughts on this one. I enjoyed learning more about the history of San Francisco, but by the end of the book, the essays were redundant and incredibly masturbatory for San Francisco. For a lot of these authors, their relationship to San Francisco feels like an emotionally abusive relationship. My favorite essays tended to be the ones that were more critical of the city and how a lot of its “wokeness” is performative. I’m also sad there were no essays that talked about the homeless crisis explicitly; most of them just mentioned it offhand as a “great tragedy.” Same goes for rising rent rates and gentrification — these phenomenon were mentioned as a problem, but ultimately not enough to make people leave because every author had money and can afford to be the few artists that stay in the city. Interesting read, but can’t say I recommend the whole book, only a number of the essays.
As expected in an anthology like this, some of the essays were five star worthy, and others were one star. Gary Kamiya, Michelle Tea, W. Kamau Bell, Elissa Bassist, Peter Coyote, Margaret Cho, Sarah Coglianese, Alysia Abbott, Ginna Green & Alia Volz were all well worth the read, but others made me want to fling the book into the mouth of the Broadway tunnel and yell after it to stop whining.
As noted by other reviewers, the audio book was gravely disappointing. This collection needed to be read by its authors, but barring that, people who would at least pronounce our streets, restaurants, and neighborhoods correctly.
I thoroughly enjoyed these varied essays on San Francisco, and as I’m one who falls into the “still enamored with the city” camp, the stories by Fayette Hauser, John Law, Duffy Jennings and of course Gary Kamiya tickled me the most. But there are so many of my other favorite local writers found in these pages, including Daniel Handler, Alysia Abbott and Alia Volz, who provide poignant and critical observations of our ever-changing, outrageously unaffordable city by the bay, and I loved their stories too. And finally, those authors who laid bare the racial inequity and segregation of our city, like Kimberly Reyes and Ginna Green, wrote some of the best and most important essays in the book. Out of the 25 essays I liked some more than others, but on the whole I enjoyed them all. The different vantage points across generations and socioeconomic situations makes this a worthy read for any San Franciscan.
Ugh. I love San Francisco. Like many of the contributing authors, I fell in love with her accepting and welcoming environment and non-judgmental style. What I was hoping for in this tome were some “sea stories” about the “good ol” days”, the kind were you’re reminiscing over beers and laughing or sitting enraptured in amazement. 90% of this book is people bitching about how expensive San Fran got, or how the people who came after them ruined it, or how small houses were, or how much money they made there. There wears even a story that barely even talked about SF, but instead was all about this person’s career. Boring and disappointing.
I received a digital ARC as part of a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Finishing this book was like pulling teeth because as a San Francisco native, it was brutal to keep reading different essays on why creatives and artists keep moving away. A few essays were beautifully written and offered borrowed memories of a city I know so well whereas others read like they were just doing Kamiya (the editor) a favor and had nothing meaningful to add except for name-dropping long gone SF cultural institutions.
I really like Gary Kamiya's writing, he has thought me so much about the City. Nonetheless, while this has been the fastest I have read a book and while it was clearly enjoyable, it comes with great pain to point out something quite clear: this book is written by privileged people about their privileged views of San Francisco. Certainly, there were very thought provoking, in depth, essays written by people who represent the minority in the city, however it clearly did not go too far out of the comfort zone. I see the irony in writing this review on this website while one of most irrelevant and pestiferous essays was written by the creator of this site, but this book leaves too many gaps not to notice. No stories from people of color who live in the corners of the Bay Area so focused by other essayists (neighborhoods like the Bayview, Mission, Tenderloin... or even the city of Oakland). No stories from immigrants (not transplants, or migrants form the "great city of New York"). No stories form working class people trying to make it in the Bay nor from people experiencing homelessness. No stories from people who just can't pick up and move to NYC, Boston, Spain or the countryside of France. It clearly missed a great opportunity (it missed the mark). This attempt to humanize trends and focus on individual stories, ends up sounding as criticism and an over simplified bourgeois take on a story that is not singular nor ending. I hope that in the future, books which intend to capture the trends of the Bay Area, specially of San Francisco, do a far better job at holistically telling the story of a city and its peripheries that are not dead nor singularly focused on gentrifiers who have the largest wallets, cause the most disruption, and provide the least contributions to its solutions, while planning their escape.
I'm not sure how relevant this book would be to someone from Boston or Missoula, but for me—a resident of the Bay Area—this book hit hard. It's basically every conversation I've had since moving to San Jose in 2012 at any party or bar or barbecue, where the talk inevitably comes around to rents and housing prices and the tech industry and the slow suffocation of the arts. It's basically those conversations, only better. Because every essay in this book expresses things that I've felt a burning yen to say at one point or another over the last decade, but it does so with more eloquence and style that I could ever muster.
Nearly every identity box gets a check mark in these pages. What is like to be a woman in tech? To be Black? Gay? Lesbian? Asian? Rich? Poor? A comedian? An indie rock musician? The founder of a start-up? A struggling writer? Peter Coyote?
I kind of wish I had stock options that were about to vest just so I could buy 4000 copies of this book and hand it out to every single person I know in the Bay Area. Not every essay will be everyone's tea and scone, but if you value good writing, you should love this book. Every sentence is art. And true. And often funny. Reading it was a balm for my specifically-south Bay-existential angst. I can't afford to buy a house. Am I a failure in life? Well, if the logic of the rampant late-stage capitalism that spawned the economic landscape where I live is to be trusted: yes, I am. But so is everyone this side of Elon Musk. So we're in good company.
Quotes: Nostalgia is history without guilt.
San Francisco is a place with its own death embedded in its history.
To live in the Bay Area is to wonder whether or not to leave.
The funny thing about life is that as you get older, you don’t need to be in an exciting place as much as you need to have once been in an exciting place.
In one of the better essays in this SF bitchfest, Daniel Handler points out that "....people spouting nonsense is not a new phenomenon in San Franciso..." There's no shortage of that here in this intensely disappointing volume. The standard essay consists of some artist/musician type whining about how the techies have ruined everything; a few even make cringeworthy apologies for their sin of hiring on with the enemy. Of course, when you read Elizabeth Khuri Chandler's (Goodreads founder!) entry, a few thousand words of enititled white woman whining about her First World problems that could just as easily gone done in Palo Alto, Laguna Beach, or wherever the overpaid congregate, you'll understand they're not entirely wrong. But too many writers here display an inability to accept the inevitability and reality of change and, on a more personal level, the fact that they are no longer 25.
Luckily Gary Kmiya, Beth Lisick, Michelle Tea and Alia Volz capture the changed and the unchanged dynamic San Francisco; Kamiya even hits the "trade offs" nail on the head. And John Law makes a key point how much of the San Francisco art/music/weirdo scene utterly lacks any sense of self-criticism. Long-suffering attendess of gigs and events can rejoice, if only someone would listen.
While much of the writing in the book is four & five star quality, it averages out to two stars. Too bad, I really hoped for more. (less)
This collection of personal essays has it all: terrific writing (some of it REALLY terrific), a multiplicity of viewpoints (most of them pretty right on), and great subject matter (San Francisco!). Some pieces conjured bygone scenes and/or articulated nuances about life in SF with such skill I wanted to stand up and applaud. Only two pieces actually annoyed me. Definitely read this if you're at all interested in SF, la vie bohème, gentrification, or psycho-geography.
Really enjoyed this book. So great to hear such a diverse group of people talking about our beloved city. Things have really changed here in the last few years, yet I cannot think of any place as beautiful as the Bay Area.
The End of the Golden Gate is a series of personal, poignant and insightful essays by writers who have for a period of time, or their entire lives, lived in the Bay area. Each in turn tell their story of the magical pull that the city invites and the lasting influence it has had on their destinies. I too lived in San Francisco for nine wonderful years and still recall its physical beauty and unbounded enthusiasms. In the end, its inspiration is rich and enduring for those who have made it home regardless of for how long. Grant Faulkner sums it up quite nostalgically: “The funny thing about life is that as you get older, you don’t need to be in an exciting place as much as you need to have once been in an exciting place.” San Francisco is such a place.
Some essays were amazing, truly transporting me to my beloved San Francisco (the city I love most on this planet), some were making me "eye-roll" like many others mentioned. Many of the reviews were whiny and clear-cut judging and pointing fingers as to "who ruined the city". I felt many of the statements were labeling things. There were many statements that felt biased and single-angled. As someone who works in tech and someone who loves San Francisco through-and-through, I find it ridiculous to read between the lines in some essays the notion that anyone who works in tech is a "flat" "tech bro" and that is who "ruined the city". First off, not everyone who works in tech industry is a "tech bro". I worked many regular shitty jobs before IT industry (jobs that were not paying bills) and then I got tired of it, took a leap of faith, enrolled into a course, worked hard, finished it, believed in myself and (inhale) landed a job. It felt like a miracle to me. Through my hard work and luck I am where I am right now. I still can not afford a house in San Francisco, btw.
But this remains my wild dream. I keep imagining a Victorian beauty that is full of history and mystery with original door knobs and light fixtures.... Very happy for those who are fortunate to own them. This must be wonderful.
Or this notion that artists and writers, musicians or artistic people is something strictly separate from people in tech. I have 8 years and a diploma of a musical school, graduated as a pianist. Or that other generalization I seem to see between the lines that "techies" do not love and cherish San Francisco, and "kill" its uniqueness. WOW.
I can not speak for others, but San Francisco is my true love and my home. I moved to Hawaii recently, and I just left my heart in San Francisco. I can`t help but every now and then cry over San Francisco while living in "paradise".
Instead of blaming "techies", why don`t some people see that its government they should blame? Government and greed; government that failed to employ policies that would protect renters from greedy landlords, fairer living wages, better heath care and etc etc. What about help to small businesses during pandemic? Nope. Just blame the tech for everything. More homeless on the streets.. because of "tech"?? Cmon. Homelessness was always there, and it was bound to get worse because local government fails to address it properly year after year, even though they have so much budget.
There were some good and inspiring essays too, like the one by John Law. <3
The thing is that no matter who says what, San Francisco is a magical place by the Bay, and it will continue being there with all its magic and gorgeousness. Yes, it does have its hardships, but it also has its marvel. And there are people who feel it, and there are those who don`t. I raise my glass to all those who see it no matter what. <3
So far, I've read four of the short essays. I started with Peter Coyote's "For Sale by New Owners." I can't really relate to the hippies of the Haight Ashbury - never did really - but Peter Coyote gives clear and angry voice to the theft of San Francisco's beauty to the "techies" in stirring style. I related to that. And maybe you will too. The first essay of the collection is "Please Excuse My Chemtrail" by Beth Lisick. It's another gem that starts with this: "Of course I miss the fog. I'm not a monster." And it only gets better as you read along with her move to New York where she feels San Francisco in her bones no matter how much time goes by in her new city that does plenty to free her from her "crampy old narrative." The following essay, Michelle Tea's "Promises" is at once beautiful and heartbreaking for the double shot of abandonment she feels in the end. "Lifer" by Terry Ashkinos comes next. It's ostensibly about a musician who punk-screams (even though he's not a punk) his never-say-die ethos that he and other "hopelessly romantic" dirt-bag" "freeloader" musicians live by, on the margins of society, refusing to give up on his art, his music, his lifestyle that dates back to 1996, according to him, the greatest year ever produced by the city of San Francisco. (Apparently, his predecessors, the hippies, besides bell bottoms, wore smug grins.) He ends it by suggesting the reflection he sees of himself in the windows as he walks the streets of the new San Francisco hasn't changed, a testament to his heroic life choice as a "lifer." What he fails to mention is that he's a teacher on the faculty of a middle school in the city. He's not hiding it; it's on his LinkedIn profile. Still, sorry to say, I felt conned by a poser who claimed he was Ratso Rizzo with a guitar but, in fact, he's had a perfectly middle-class job to keep him in the financial pink. (No shame in that. Charles Bukowski worked for the post office for years.) But if LinkedIn has it wrong, then, as Kurt Cobain sang it, all apologies.
Started this book while I was thinking about leaving San Francisco (I've decided to stay put for now). I enjoyed reading through these short stories to see San Francisco from a new perspective (aka people who were born and raised in the city, or people who moved here in the 80s, or people who started tech companies). The stories made me appreciate the beauty of this city a bit more, while still recognizing all of the issues it faces.
One of the biggest takeaways was that there will always be someone who could say "you missed out on the height of San Francisco". The moments of the past - the Gold Rush, the rebuilding of the city after 1906, the counter culture movement, the gay rights movement, the dot com bubble - aren't here, but young people can still keep coming to make an experience of their own in a new city. At the same time, older folks can stay connected to the city by letting go of the past and embracing what is here and now.
Love this city and excited to keep making new memories.
Super disappointed after loving Gary Kamiya's 'Cool Gray City of Love', a wonderfully informative book of pride-inducing vignettes about SF. I came expecting more of that with this book but very quickly into it, found the 'tech bro' bashing, amongst much of the whining to be exhausting and just pure uninteresting. I think we all get that SF has changed - but which city hasn't? Which city hasn't become more expensive or with its own version of social issues? By indulging these whiners and not providing a more balanced perspective of all the good that has also come here in recent years, this book was such a lost opportunity. Also, the writing quality in some of the chapters was pretty terrible, too. If Gary Kamiya had asked me to contribute a chapter, I am 100% sure I could have done a better job.
The writing is stunning - it is amazing how many artists come from this great City. Yet, it is also very depressing in the consistent lament of how the City has changed, that it is not once what it gloriously was. Less than a handful seem to enjoy the wonders it still has to offer. Maybe it is a reflection of the past four dismissal years, and continuing with a pandemic that still does not let us leave our home on a consistent basis.