Mary Beth Meehan and Fred Turner, "Seeing Silicon Valley: Life Inside a Fraying America" (U Chicago Press, 2021)

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It’s hard to imagine a place more central to American mythology today than Silicon Valley. To outsiders, the region glitters with the promise of extraordinary wealth and innovation. But behind this image lies another Silicon Valley, one segregated by race, class, and nationality in complex and contradictory ways. Its beautiful landscape lies atop underground streams of pollutants left behind by decades of technological innovation, and while its billionaires live in compounds, surrounded by redwood trees and security fences, its service workers live in their cars.

With arresting photography and intimate stories, Seeing Silicon Valley: Life Inside a Fraying America (U Chicago Press, 2021) makes this hidden world visible. Instead of young entrepreneurs striving for efficiency in minimalist corporate campuses, we see portraits of struggle—families displaced by an impossible real estate market, workers striving for a living wage, and communities harmed by environmental degradation. If the fate of Silicon Valley is the fate of America—as so many of its boosters claim—then this book gives us an unvarnished look into the future.

Matthew Jordan is a university instructor, funk musician, and clear writing enthusiast. He studies the history of science and technology, driven by the belief that we must understand the past in order to improve the future.

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