Silicon City San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley

An intimate, eye-opening portrait of San Francisco transformed by the tech boom. Silicon City masterfully weaves together a candid conversation across a divided community to create a dynamic portrait of a beloved city—and a cautionary tale for the entire country.

“Essential…A conflicted and complex portrait of a city starving for solutions.”

San Francisco Chronicle

Silicon City is an intimate, eye-opening portrait of San Francisco transformed by the tech boom.

San Francisco is changing at warp speed. Famously home to artists and activists, and known as the birthplace of the Beats, the Black Panthers, and the LGBTQ movement, in recent decades the Bay Area has been reshaped by Silicon Valley, the engine of the new American economy. The richer the region gets, the more unequal and less diverse it becomes, and cracks in the city’s facade — rapid gentrification, an epidemic of evictions, rising crime, atrophied public institutions — have started to show.

Inspired by Studs Terkel’s classic works of oral history, writer and filmmaker Cary McClelland spent several years interviewing people at the epicenter of the recent change, from venture capitalists and coders to politicians and protesters, from native sons and daughters to the city’s newest arrivals. The crisp and vivid stories of Silicon City’s diverse cast capture San Francisco as never before.

The book opens with a longtime tour guide recounting the history of the original Gold Rush and observing how little the people of his city pay attention to its history; it ends on Fisherman’s Wharf, with the proprietor of an arcade game museum reminding us that even today’s technology will become relics of the past. In between we hear from people who have passed through Apple, Google, eBay, Intel, and the other big tech companies of our time. And we meet those who are experiencing the changes at the grassroots level: a homeless advocate in Haight-Ashbury, an Oakland rapper, a pawnbroker in the Mission, a man who helped dismantle and rebuild the Bay Bridge, and a woman who runs a tattoo parlor in the Castro.

Silicon City masterfully weaves together a candid conversation across a divided community to create a dynamic portrait of a beloved city — and a cautionary tale for the entire country.

Cary Mcclelland

Cary McClelland is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and rights advocate whose work has taken him around the world to document and bring to life stories of people persisting in turbulent times. He has trained former child soldiers to be journalists in the Democratic Republic of Congo, engaged in conflict transformation programs in liberated East Timor, worked alongside opposition activists in Zimbabwe, and collaborated on advocacy campaigns in Egypt, Syria and Myanmar. His award-winning film, Without Shepherds, documented the lives of six people fighting against extremism in Pakistan, and his innovative new media work with WITNESS and Google was nominated for a Webby award. In his newly released book, Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley published by W.W. Norton, Cary turns his lens back home to create a portrait of a city transformed by the tech industry, through the stories of its citizens, past and present. The book explores the challenges posed by the new American economy, serves as a clarion call for action on behalf of those underserved and displaced, and is perhaps a story of hope that so many are working to address their common challenges. As a New York attorney, Cary represented journalists and artists in defense of the First Amendment, and his pro bono work focused on immigration policy, political engagement and representing congressional candidates. He is a frequently invited speaker on topics of media, technology, democracy, rule of law and story-telling. Cary holds a B.A. from Harvard University, a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.