California Calling is a lyrical self-interrogation of obsession, emigration, and identity. Natalie Singer’s story opens in a courtroom on a witness stand, where she’s forced to testify in a family breakup that changes the course of her life. At sixteen Natalie emigrates from Montreal and the secrets it holds to the golden promise of the California Bay Area, just as her Jewish ancestors fled Russia and went west for a new life. Through uneasy rituals of high school pep rallies and college sex in boats and the backs of pickups, to a summer tracing a serial killer through the heart of Gold Country, to an eventual journalism career in San Francisco and the deserts of Palm Springs, Natalie aches to forge an American identity. At once an intimately unflinching memoir and a probing examination of the family and cultural myths that shape us, California Calling calls upon history, reportage, witness interrogation tactics, music and pop culture, and the iconography of the West to explore whether we can cure loneliness through landscape. Ultimately, California Calling is a search for a state of belonging.
“Because I could not speak, because I could not say, when interrogated in that courtroom, We are a family—because women have bodies that can lead to the unraveling of everything—we lost my little brother.”
In Natalie Singer’s memoir,...Forward
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy...Forward
Hawthorne Books: California Calling: A Self-Interrogation by Natalie Singer
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The problem: I’m writing a book about California. Not just a story set in a place, but a story of the place itself. A rooted story, one that will sweat California out of its paper pores. One that, with its California pheromones, will ensnare you...Forward
When I first skimmed a galley of Natalie Singer’s California Calling, I felt–there’s no other word for it—spooked. I glimpsed words and phrases about California as a mythic place, about aching for it before you really know what it is, about...Forward
In California Calling: A Self-Interrogation, Natalie Singer brings the universal themes of longing and displacement to life in a singular, inimitable voice. California Calling is a story of yearning for a home that no longer exists, a story of place—both real and iconic. But most of all this is a book about disruption and an interrogation in which form mirrors content; the questions leveled at the narrator become, in the end, Singer’s questions for the reader, who is left to revisit their own notions of identity, home, and belonging. Natalie Singer is an important writer we’ll be sure to be hearing from for years to come.
- Theo Pauline Nestor
- Author of Writing Is My Drink
I couldn’t stop reading California Calling—I consumed it in one gorgeous gulp. Natalie Singer writes beautifully of an ordinary, extraordinary coming of age. In prose that’s lean and elegant and fiercely honest, she captures the big pain and the small, real joys of growing up. This book shimmers like a California dream.
- Claire Dederer
- Author of Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning
Natalie Singer’s wonderful debut is about the myths we tell ourselves about ourselves as nations and individuals, and what we do when we learn about the truth beneath those myths. Singer situates California Calling within the geographic, literary and pop culture of the American West but the story she tells will ring true to anyone who is or knows a daughter, a woman, an immigrant.
- Rebecca Brown
- Author of The Gifts of the Body
If epic longing for an identity could be cured by entering a story, California Calling: A Self Interrogation is the roadmap. Natalie Singer gives us the beating heart of an immigrant entering that mythic place we call the west. By and through the body of a girl becoming a woman we are reminded just how tricky forging a self is against the fractures and earthquakes and soul fires of life. I could hear and identify with an Eastern European heartsong yearning to find the rhythm called home in the west. I know both of those songs. This book split my heart open and reminded me how much immigrations matter, how much we all carry the traces of of other worlds.
- Lidia Yuknavitch
- Author of The Chronology of Water
The delicate architecture of this book is stunning, and the originality of Ms. Singer’s voice and mind is as exciting as anything I’ve read in years. California Calling is an important book, especially now. Read it to be both enlightened and astonished by the beauty of the prose.
- Abigail Thomas
- Author of What Comes Next and How To Like It
Memoirs can be approached from numerous angles: a bit of chronological history, for instance; a slice out of the middle of a life, or just the memory of a particular set of experiences that recur like some kind of life theme. But California Calling is unlike any memoir you’ve ever read. It’s unlike any memoir I’ve read either. It has to do with immigration, with families that break up, with moving to a new country and a new life. It’s written as though the author is being interrogated. It’s written as though her whole heart is in it. It’s written for her and it’s written for you, and for me and for anyone who is willing to open their heart to the reality of what it means to be an immigrant in our country. Absolutely heart-wrenching and heart-healing. I loved it!
- Linda Bond
- Outreach Coordinator, Auntie's Bookstore
A…compelling book about a complicated question: if identity is made of memory and memory does not cohere, how do we build a self from the shards?
- Kirkus Reviews
In this searing book… Singer’s candor and self-questioning are humbling. She writes with melodic precision and sunshine-soaked imagery, crafting a powerful and memorable memoir.
- Courtney Eathorne
In her captivating literary memoir… Singer’s story comes through brief and lovely snapshots of moments, captured in language that is visceral and vivacious… a work that is both raw and incandescent, but whose most powerful reveals will perhaps reemerge in the reader’s consciousness only after the fact. This is a California that, as promised, truly does belong to all.
- Michelle Anne Schlingler
- Foreword Reviews
Love, escape, education, and family… These subjects are intertwined in ways that make for emotionally engrossing reading.
- Library Journal