Sep 15, 2022 - News

San Francisco native's new book explores the changing city

Emil DeAndreis
Emil DeAndreis, author of "Tell us when to go." Photo: Megan Rose Dickey/Axios

San Francisco native Emil DeAndreis' semi-autobiographical novel, "Tell us when to go," explores the ever-changing city and various lived experiences of SF residents.

Details: The novel, which hits bookshelves next week, revolves around three characters: Cole Gallegos, a college dropout whose aspirations to become a professional baseball player fail to pan out; his roommate Isaac Moss, who landed a job in the tech industry; and Dizzy Benson, a young girl in foster care who lives on Treasure Island.

  • The novel takes place between 2010 and 2011, toward the end of the Bay Area's hyphy movement.

Be smart: Megan here 👋🏾. The title itself is a nod to that movement, which really had its moment in 2006 when rapper E-40 released his album "The ghetto report card" with the hit "Tell me when to go."

  • The cultural and lifestyle movement centered around rap and hip-hop music.
  • Hyphy is about "gettin' hype, takin' it there," Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green said at the time.
  • As a native, I second that.

The big picture: The book explores San Francisco during a time of change driven by the arrival of Web 2.0 companies through the character of Gallegos, who works in public education, and Moss, the tech worker.

  • Throughout the novel, their paths diverge while Gallegos' friendship with Benson blossoms.
  • Gallegos "comes to realize these realities that he was never really aware of in San Francisco, whereas his roommate who works in tech starts to have a completely different experience of the city and begins to embody the [tech] lifestyle," DeAndreis says. "So, naturally, they start to drift apart."

What he's saying: "It's meant as a symbolic representation of the increasing gap in San Francisco that started to take place around that time [2010 and 2011]," DeAndreis tells Axios of his characters' relationship.

  • San Francisco's income inequalities are "pretty insidious" in the book, the author adds.

Yes, but: DeAndreis said it was important for his story not to be "too preachy" or force readers to pick sides.

  • "I just wanted to present the dichotomy as I saw it," he says. "[I]t was important to me to give voice to the many experiences, the many lives in San Francisco."

Between the lines: "The lasting appeal of 'Tell us when to go' is perhaps as a foreboding time capsule into the Bay Area's recent past," Datebook's Zack Ruskin wrote in a review on Wednesday.

  • "Anchored by friendship and a Golden Gate Ferry's worth of local references, Emil DeAndreis has gifted readers with a wonderful meditation on what it means to be imperfect, starring the ideal poster child: San Francisco."

What's next: The book comes out on Sept. 20.

Disclosure: Megan and DeAndreis attended the same elementary, middle and high schools. They only knew each other tangentially.

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