In New Memoir, Alum Rebecca Solnit Explores Her Role in Gentrification

Friday, April 03, 2020

THE NEW REPUBLIC -- Solnit grew up in a troubled household in a suburb of San Francisco. After a brief stint in Paris as a teenager, she returned to Northern California where she took the GED at 15 and graduated from San Francisco State University in 1981 at age 20. The year before, she moved into an apartment in a predominately African American neighborhood near the city’s Panhandle district.

“Later on I’d come to understand gentrification and the role that I likely played as a pale face making the neighborhood more palatable to other pale faces,” she writes, “but I had no sense at the start that things would change and how that worked.”

Solnit would spend the next two decades in this studio apartment, writing near her bay window on a desk gifted to her by a friend who was nearly stabbed to death by an ex-boyfriend. “Now I wonder,” she reflects, “if everything I have ever written is a counterweight to that attempt to reduce a young woman to nothing.”