Michael Chabon's book Telegraph Avenue, set in Berkeley and Oakland, is a popular selection for book groups. (Please see the Reader's Advisory post from August 9th for a recap of Lakeview Branch's book group discussion.)
Many people, including myself, enjoy reading books that are set in the area in which they live so I've dedicated this post to fiction set in Oakland. All of these titles are available at OPL and include blurbs from the publisher's descriptions.
While I've only listed fiction that takes place in Oakland, the library also carries many titles by Oakland authors. Look for a sampling of those authors in an upcoming post.
What are your favorite Oakland stories?
More like wrestling : a novel / by Danyel Smith
More Like Wrestling is the magnificent debut novel by one of the most acclaimed music journalists of her generation. It tells the story of Pinch and Paige, two sisters coming of age in Oakland, California, in the 1980s, a time when that beautiful, crumbling city is being transformed by tectonic shifts, both literal and figurative.
Humpty Dumpty in Oakland / Philip K. Dick
Set in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1950s, Humpty Dumpty in Oakland is a tragicomedy of misunderstandings among used car dealers and real-estate salesmen: the small-time, struggling individuals for whom Philip K. Dick always reserved his greatest sympathy.
Nickel and dime / Gary Soto
"I'm outta here! I got a future!" crows Roberto Silva when he is down-sized out of his job as a security guard at a bank in Oakland. But Roberto's future isn't the one he was looking forward to. This is the 1990s, and upward mobility in the city requires resources that Roberto is short of. Before he knows it, he is living in an abandoned quonset hut and then on the street, where he crosses paths with poet Silver Mendez, a survivor of the 1960s whose luck has run out, and Gus Hernandez, a compadre from his days at the bank.
Edgewise : a novel / Jan Stites
Simone, a popular but troubled high school teacher, is very adept at hiding her emotional turmoil, until it lands her in an inner-city outpatient psychiatric hospital where hers is the only white face. She inadvertently alienates Satch, a fullback of a woman who relentlessly taunts her for her denial and cheerful demeanor. In the weeks that follow, Simone and Satch are thrown together both inside and outside the hospital. Their surprising and often tumultuous friendship becomes essential to both women's quests to uncover the hidden truths of their pasts that propel them toward self-destruction.
Leaving : a novel / Richard Dry
In 1959, newly-widowed and pregnant Ruby Washington and her thirteen-year-old half brother, Easton, board a bus in rural South Carolina, destined for Oakland, California. There, far from the violent events that forced her to flee her home, Ruby hopes to make a new life for her family...Centered around three generations of a family and set against the larger dispossession of African Americans, Leaving is a blend of history and intimately-observed everyday life.
The length of the leash / Gary D. Sproul
Until the day Maria Johansen, a beautiful immigrant from Central America, walked through the door of his Oakland law office with an aging priest, Nick Mastro thought he had his priorities straight. In his opinion, certainty was more valuable than success, but the world that Maria and her powerful husband, Arthur, draw him into puts that all in question.
East Bay grease / Eric Miles Williamson
In Eric Miles Williamson's debut novel, young T-Bird Murphy seeks to gain a foothold in the turbulent and menacing world of 60's and 70's Oakland. While his mother runs with Hell's Angel's bikers, T-Bird falls beneath the men's fists and favors, finds solace and hope in the slightest of rewards, and seeks to survive.
Too beautiful for words / Monique W. Morris
This startling, stunning debut novel by a young African-American writer offers a hard-edged portrait of life on the streets of Oakland, California.
Oaktown devil / by Renay Jackson
On the streets, crime and violence are part of the daily routine, and revenge has taken the place of stickball. Staying straight isn't easy, especially when one's family is mixed up in gang wars and drug dealing...More than just a page-turner, Oaktown Devil speaks for readers outside the mainstream and offers a voice for an overlooked population.
Masha'allah and other stories / Mariah K. Young
In each of these nine tales, Young invites us into the worlds of a diverse cast of genuine, hard-working people: we take a ride with a hired driver who gets more than he bargains for with an unusual fare; we meet a day laborer whose search for work leads him to the edges of human sacrifice and hope; we join a plucky house cleaner named Chinta, who sets up impromptu beauty parlors in the houses she cleans.
The valley of the moon / Jack London ; foreword by Kevin Starr
"The Valley of the Moon", chronicles the journey of a working-class couple, Billy and Saxon, who leave Oakland, CA in the midst of labor strife to search for suitable farmland farther north. They find what they're looking for in the Valley of the Moon, a Native American name for the Sonoma Valley, where Jack London lived on his ranch for the last part of his life.
The mistress of spices / by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers. Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo--in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman--travels through time to Oakland, California, where she opens a shop from which she administers spices as curatives to her customers.
Edit: Thanks to commenter, Peggy, for this great recommendation for an addition to the list. Virgin soul / Judy Juanita.
Rebekah Eppley on 8/23/13, Dimond Branch