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The 10th Winner of the 2019 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Awarded by Barbara Kingsolver

“What a read this is, right from its startling opening scene. But even more than plot, it’s the richly layered details that drive home a lightning bolt of empathy. To read At the Edge of the Haight is to live inside the everyday terror and longings of a world that most of us manage not to see, even if we walk past it on sidewalks every day. At a time when more Americans than ever find themselves at the edge of homelessness, this book couldn’t be more timely.”

Barbara Kingsolver, author of Unsheltered and The Poisonwood Bible

Maddy Donaldo, homeless at twenty, lives with her dog and makeshift family in the hidden spaces of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She thinks she knows how to survive and whom to trust until she accidentally witnesses the murder of a young man. Her world is upended as she has to face not only the killer but also the police and then the victim’s parents, who desperately want Maddy to tell them about the life their son led after he left home. And in a desire to save her since they could not save their own son, they are determined to have Maddy reunite with her own lost family.
 
But what makes a family? Is it the people who raised you if they don’t have the skills to look after you? Is it the foster parents whose generosity only lasts until things become more difficult? Or is it the family that Maddy has met in the park, young people who also have nowhere else to go?
 
Told with sensitivity and tenderness and set against the backdrop of a radically changing city, At the Edge of the Haight is narrated by a young girl just beginning to understand herself. The result is a powerful debut that, much like previous Bellwether winners The Leavers, by Lisa Ko, or Heidi Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, grapples with one of the most urgent issues of our day.
 

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Katherine Seligman

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Review quotes

“What a read this is, right from its startling opening scene. But even more than plot, it’s the richly layered details that drive home a lightning bolt of empathy. To read At the Edge of the Haight is to live inside the everyday terror and longings of a world that most of us manage not to see, even if we walk past it on sidewalks every day. At a time when more Americans than ever find themselves at the edge of homelessness, this book couldn’t be more timely.”
Barbara Kingsolver, author of Unsheltered and The Poisonwood Bible

“A terrific novel, half murder-mystery, half a tale of growing up. The heroine and her friends are unique in my reading experience—homeless young people living in Golden Gate Park, with their own community and their own rules—and their story is suspenseful and touching throughout.”
Scott Turow

“Katherine Seligman's new novel makes alive and visible the lives of people we often walk past, sometimes as quickly as we can.”
NPR

At the Edge of the Haight inspires empathy for San Francisco’s unhoused. A journalist who has written extensively about homelessness and mental health issues, particularly in California, Seligman is a keen observer of the wealth gap in San Francisco and the challenges facing those experiencing homelessness. Seligman’s writing is at its best when it juxtaposes the experiences of living in San Francisco for those who have and those who have not . . .  The book is a compassionate and probing character study of the type of street kids Seligman knows people tend to overlook or even scorn when they see them begging on the sidewalk."
San Francisco Chronicle

“An incisive look at homelessness in the Haight.”
7x7

“[A] gripping debut novel, At the Edge of the Haight explores a community on the edge of a historic setting and on the edge of getting by, with a compelling protagonist and an array of problems to wrestle with . . . In this quietly compassionate novel, a young homeless woman stumbles onto a crime scene on the edge of Haight-Ashbury, and eventually reconsiders how she got there."
 Shelf Awareness

At the Edge of the Haight brims with empathy for the overlooked and the underserved. It's a deep, dark, and necessary look into lives often discarded and disregarded—an urgent and important read and a startling debut.”
Ivy Pochoda, author of These Women
                                                         
“This book pulled me deep into a world I knew little about, bringing the struggles of its young, homeless inhabitants—the kind of people we avoid eye contact with on the street—to vivid, poignant life. The novel demands that you take a close look. If you knew, could you still ignore, fear or condemn them? And knowing, how can you ever forget?”
Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound   

“Through careful observation, Seligman seeks to humanize a community that is often ignored and misunderstood . . . Winner of the 2019 PEN/Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, At the Edge of the Haight is a thoughtful look at modern homelessness.”
Booklist

“[An] intense, personal drama about wayward lives positioned between redemption and disaster. Putting a human face on those who live at society’s margins, At the Edge of the Haight is an intimate novel whose young characters struggle for survival and a little bit of dignity.
Foreword Reviews

"I love Maddy Donaldo. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Not since Carson McCullers’s Frankie Addams have I seen a character so defined by her deep dualism—an electric desire to be both invisible and seen, free and bonded."
—Mesha Maren, author of Sugar Run

"Subtle yet compelling . . . written in delicate, understated prose, At the Edge of the Haight not only offers unexpected insights into the daily life of those who are young and on the streets, but into the confusion of tenderness, hurt, fear and fierceness that tumble within the minds of many. An enlightening read for anyone of any age.”
Helen Benedict, author of Wolf Season 

“I loved this novel: its tenderness, its toughness, its brilliantly-named protagonist Maddy—these days, what thoughtful person isn’t mad? Maddy is a Holden Caulfield for our times, smart, streetwise, a survivor who is not jaded. Seligman’s vivid portrait leads us to understand San Francisco’s street people not as “the other” but as extensions of our friends, our families, our neighbors, ourselves.  If there is hope for our species, it begins there.”
Fenton Johnson, author of At the Center of All Beauty: Solitude and the Creative Life

"At the Edge of the Haight is a novel of rare grace and compassion that opens a window onto a world to which we often keep ourselves closed. With a keen sense for setting and state of mind, Katherine Seligman takes us on a journey into the hidden spaces of America, where the friction created between the need to be seen and to disappear, to remember and to forget sets little fires that help us see better, help us stay warm."
C. Morgan Babst, author of The Floating World

"Seligman is to be commended for an insightful portrayal of homelessness . . . heartfelt . . . brave."
 Kirkus Reviews

"Seligman has a strong sense of the city and of the challenges faced by the homeless. [Her] portrayal of life as a homeless young person is immersive."
 Publishers Weekly

Product Details
Categories
Number of pages
304
Publication date
January 19, 2021
ISBN
9781643750231