California Calling

SF2

The first time I ever heard about California I was eight, tucked between library stacks, the Canadian snow blizzarding outside. Beneath the frayed cover of a book called All About California, I read fantastical myths of griffins and earthquakes, furnace deserts and Hollywood stars, and I felt an imprinting take place. California seemed like the answer to my dull existence in the nowhere North, to the secrets of my parents’ marriage, to our claustrophobic, gossipy Jewish community where everyone knew everything.

Soon after, obsessed with stories of the unknown, aliens and The Twilight Zone, I discovered that the family I believed I had, arranged in a way that provided safety from things that threatened little girls like me — kidnappers in black vans; flashers in raincoats — was not what it has always seemed. My childhood truths slid suddenly into fiction and my first family exploded.

At sixteen, with a pasted-together second family destined to fail and thousands of other dot com pioneers, I finally went west to the place of my obsessions. California Calling, a hybrid memoir, starts here and spans nine years, tracing the story of this relocation and my search for a map of belonging within an unfamiliar territory. This search asks what it means to assimilate, confronting the silences of my Eastern European ancestors’ near erasure and my own girlhood while interrogating the California myth ― a fantasy of self-improvement and dreams come true that has gripped the imaginations of immigrants for millennia.

A lyric, 50,000-word coming-of-age memoir that employs narrative, vignettes, collage and found forms and functions as a self-interrogation, California Calling is a completed manuscript that has already attracted attention. In January 2017 it earned First Runner Up in the Red Hen Press nonfiction contest. In fall 2016 it was a finalist in the Autumn House Press book contest, one of a handful of nonfiction finalists among more than 1,000 entries. An excerpt from California Calling has also won first place in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association contest for memoir/nonfiction. An urgent literary work for an invested community of readers who are hungrily engaging with memoirs and lyric essay collections built on hybrid forms, California Calling seeks a publishing home.