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Chris Carlsson at City Lights Books
March 19, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm PDTFree
Hidden San Francisco: A Guide to Lost Landscapes, Unsung Heroes and Radical Histories
from Pluto Press
San Francisco is an iconic and symbolic city. But only when you look beyond the picture-postcards of the Golden Gate Bridge and the quaint cable cars do you realise that the city’s most interesting stories are not the Summer of Love, the Beats or even the latest gold rush in Silicon Valley.
Hidden San Francisco is a guidebook like no other. Structured around the four major themes of ecology, labour, transit and dissent, Chris Carlsson peels back the layers of San Francisco’s history to reveal a storied past: behind old walls and gleaming glass facades lurk former industries, secret music and poetry venues, forgotten terrorist bombings, and much more. Carlsson delves into the Bay Area’s long prehistory as well, examining the region’s geography and the lives of its inhabitants before the 1849 Gold Rush changed everything, setting in motion the clash between capital and labour that shaped the modern city.
From the perspective of the students and secretaries, longshoremen and waitresses, San Francisco uncovers dozens of overlooked, forgotten and buried histories that pulse through the streets and hills even today, inviting the reader to see themselves in the middle of the ongoing, everyday process of making history together.
Chris Carlsson, co-director of the “history from below” project Shaping San Francisco, is a writer, publisher, editor, photographer, public speaker, and occasional professor. He was one of the founders in 1981 of the seminal and infamous underground San Francisco magazine Processed World. In 1992 Carlsson co-founded Critical Mass in San Francisco, which both led to a local bicycling boom and helped to incubate transformative urban movements in hundreds of cities, large and small, worldwide. In 1995 work began on “Shaping San Francisco;” since then the project has morphed into an incomparable archive of San Francisco history at Foundsf.org, award-winning bicycle and walking tours, and more than a decade of Public Talks covering history, politics, ecology, art, and more (see shapingsf.org). Beginning in Spring 2020, Carlsson hosts “City Front” Bay Cruises leaving from Pier 40.
Carlsson has written three books, the most recent being Hidden San Francisco: A Guide to Lost Landscapes, Unsung Heroes, and Radical Histories (Pluto Press: 2020). His 2004 novel is set in a future “post-economic” San Francisco (After the Deluge, Full Enjoyments Books: 2004), and his groundbreaking look at class and work in Nowtopia (AK Press: 2008) which uniquely examined how hard and pleasantly we work when we’re not at our official jobs. He has also edited six books including three “Reclaiming San Francisco” collections with the venerable City Lights Books. He redesigned and co-authored an expanded Vanished Waters: A History of San Francisco’s Mission Bay after which he joined the board of the Mission Creek Conservancy; he is on the board of the San Francisco Community Land Trust, and also serves as an advisor to the Shipyard Trust for the Arts at Hunter’s Point. He has given hundreds of public presentations based on Shaping San Francisco, Critical Mass, Nowtopia, Vanished Waters, and his “Reclaiming San Francisco” history anthologies since the late 1990s, and has appeared dozens of times in radio, television and on the internet.
Praise for Hidden San Francisco
San Francisco is long overdue for a history like this! Smart and accessible, this is a book that everyone who has left a piece of their heart in the city needs to read. Its vibrant stories of the past are invaluable tools for charting a sustainable, inclusive future’ —Barbara Berglund Sokolov, historian at Presidio Trust
‘The history of San Francisco I’ve been waiting for. It not only reorients our conceptions of the past, it gives us walking tour itineraries so we can viscerally experience how we are participants in the region’s remaking.’ —Sean Burns, author of ‘Archie Green: The Making of a Working Class Hero’ (University of Illinois Press, 2011)
‘Brings erudition, curiosity and passionate progressivism to a remarkably wide range of subjects – from the city’s profaned natural glories, to little-known episodes in its labor history, to a Homeric list of people, organizations and movements that have tried to throw a spoke in the grinding cogs of various incarnations of The Establishment.’ —Gary Kamiya
‘Every city needs and deserves a Chris Carlsson. San Francisco is fortunate to have him and Hidden San Francisco not just because history from below is worth remembering, but more importantly because it is full of possibilities we should never forget for the present and future of The City’ —Jon Christensen, adjunct assistant professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the Department of History, and the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles.
‘Few people know the streets of San Francisco as well as Chris Carlsson. Sadly, gentrification is fast ripping the heart out of a city that generations of artists, immigrants, and working-class radicals have made into a unique and wondrous place. This book, thus, can be read as an obituary for his beloved home or, perhaps, a call to arms to renew the city again’ —Peter Cole, Professor of History, Western Illinois University
‘Unlike your conventional guide books telling you where to shop, eat, and be entertained, this is a dissenter’s guidebook that invites you into a holistic view of the City – bringing to life the stories of everyone from the hot politicians and their corporate paymasters to the streetcar conductors, secretaries, and construction workers who built the city and keep it running’ —Peter Booth Wiley, publisher and author
‘Scores of sparkling vignettes – from Mission Rock to the Haight, Balmy Alley to Telegraph Hill – illuminate the city with the torch of social criticism and the sharp lens of a local sage. This is history from below at its best and a guidebook through the byways of collective memory’ —Richard Walker, author of ‘Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area’ (PM Press, 2018).
‘An original, vivid people’s history of the nation’s ‘Left Coast City’. Photos, maps, and self-guided tours of over one hundred of the most important and iconic historic places and spaces bring to life the authors’ beautifully crafted and well-informed San Francisco stories’ —Bill Issel
‘With the city awash these days with more and more newcomers, Hidden San Francisco is more vital than ever for keeping us all connected to the wild, weird, and radical histories that make this place so special. Dig into it, it’s full of gold’ —Susan Stryker, director of ‘Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria’