Synopses & Reviews
In this moving and unexpected book, Joan Didion reassesses parts of her life, her work, her history, and ours. Where I Was From
, in Didions words, “represents an exploration into my own confusions about the place and the way in which I grew up, confusions as much about America as about California, misapprehensions and misunderstandings so much a part of who I became that I can still to this day confront them only obliquely.” The book is a haunting narrative of how her own family moved west with the frontier from the birth of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother in Virginia in 1766 to the death of her mother on the edge of the Pacific in 2001; of how the wagon-train stories of hardship and abandonment and endurance created a culture in which survival would seem the sole virtue.
In Where I Was From, Didion turns what John Leonard has called “her sonar ear, her radar eye” onto her own work, as well as that of such California writers as Frank Norris and Jack London and Henry George, to examine how the folly and recklessness in the very grain of the California settlement led to the California we know today-a state mortgaged first to the railroad, then to the aerospace industry, and overwhelmingly to the federal government, a dependent colony of those political and corporate owners who fly in for the annual encampment of the
Bohemian Club. Here is the one writer we always want to read on California showing us the startling contradictions in its-and in Americas-core values.
Joan Didions unerring sense of America and its spirit, her acute interpretation of its institutions and literature, and her incisive questioning of the stories it tells itself make this fiercely intelligent book a provocative and important tour de force from one of our greatest writers.
"Joan Didion has done much to complicate the idea of a California consciousness; she takes the subject up again in Where I Was From. As the title suggests, this work is often autobiographical, but Didion (whose own person so often seems spectral to the story she is telling), cuts it with a miscellany of Californian history and recent events....if a single theme could be pinned to prose this rich: the secret dependencies of a place mythically aloof; our reliance on those we turn from." Anna Godbersen, Esquire
(read the entire Esquire review
"The latest from Didion is a complex and challenging memoir, difficult to enter into but just as difficult to put down....Those who have long admired the clarity and precision of her prose will not be disappointed with this partly autobiographical, partly historical, but fully engrossing account." Library Journal
"With humor, history, nostalgia, and acerbity, Didion considers the conundrums of California, her beloved home state....Demonstrates how very thin is the gilt on the Golden State." Kirkus Reviews
In this moving and unexpected work, Didion reassesses her life, her work, and both her own and America's history, locating the contradictions in the stories people tell themselves about their past and their present.
About the Author
Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York. She is the author of five novels and six previous books of nonfiction: Political Fictions, After Henry, Miami, Salvador, The White Album, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem.