The End of San Francisco

The End of San Francisco

Press Reviews


"In a world where AIDS, abuse, experimentation, gender expression, activism and public expression of queer sexuality continue to mean death—socially, politically, and otherwise—Sycamore's advice must be heard at all costs."—Matthew Halse


"But, some of my favorite writers and people released books this year. Like Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's beautiful book about queerness and community and lack of and disappointment and marginalization and gentrification and sex, The End of San Francisco. God, I love that book, on a sentence level it is just heartbreaking."—Jessa Crispin

Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"I have decided my favorite genre is the jeremiad, the infuriating lament…everyone should read Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, especially her most recent, The End of San Francisco."—Kate Zambreno

The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide

"Author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the artistic love child of Jean genet and David Wojnarowicz, deconstructing language swathed in unbridled sensuality, while flinging readers into a disrupted, chaotic life of queer anarchy…Images cascade and collide with one another in an accomplished literary cadenza of salvation."—John R. Killacky

The Stranger

"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's whip-raw memoir The End of San Francisco is all about…the need to discover who you are by defining yourself in a place. She avoids the clichés of other angry young memoirs by sharing her protagonist role with San Francisco."—Paul Constant

Tikkun Magazine

"Sycamore's associative, non-linear narrative is filled with sparkling language that illuminates the importance of reaching for connection and alive-ness in the face of brutality and loss."—Wendy Elisheva Somerson


"The End Of San Francisco, published by City Lights, is activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's denunciation of assimilation…This book is a useful reminder that the gay community is far from monolithic and that it is especially important to listen to the voices of resistance."—June Thomas


"The result is brilliant, a collection of unstructured vignettes about sex abuse, dying parents, feminism and veganism, Tracy Chapman and Le Tigre, dyke bars and gay tricks, AIDS and ACT UP that all weave together a life of hope in '90s San Francisco and the disappointment that follows."—Diane Anderson-Minshall

Gay and Lesbian Review

"Author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the artistic love child of John Genet and David Wojnarowicz, deconstructing language swathed in unbridled sensuality, while flinging readers into a disrupted, chaotic life of queer anarchy."


"It is so difficult to assess The End of San Francisco because it is a work of such blazing originality that one cannot compare it to anything else and say 'this is more or less successful than that.' The experience of The End of San Francisco simply bears no comparison."—Charles Kruger

Rain Taxi

"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has a model for relationships that says: 'First you reveal everything, and then when you can't think of anything else to reveal you go deeper.' In The End of San Francisco, Sycamore lets the reader feel the bitter sweetness of that relationship model, the 'push-pull of intimacy' that makes the process of excavating memories so painful but so cathartic, so difficult but so urgent."—Mariana Roa Oliva

Psychology Today

"…one of the most important memoirs of the decade…The End of San Francisco is one of the most vulnerable memoirs I've read."—Ariel Gore

San Francisco Chronicle

"It would be easy to describe The End of San Francisco as a Joycean Portrait of the Artist as a Young Queer (although the book's intense stream of consciousness is reminiscent of the later, more experimental, Joyce)…but this is misleading. This journey of a life that begins in the professional upper-middle class (both parents are therapists) and the Ivy League and moves to hustling, drugs, activism—Sycamore was active in ACT UP and Queer Nation—and queer bohemian grunge, is profoundly American. At heart, Sycamore is writing about the need to escape control through flight or obliteration."—Michael Bronski

Broken Pencil

"Sycamore identifies the complicated messiness of identities wrestling with belonging, activism and being instruments of gentrification…Her style—emotional and conversational—creates a rich, satisfying, evocative and deeply relatable world."


"This autobiography is a story of the way people fail each other, whether out of malice or exhaustion or just not knowing how to be there. It's a chronicle of the ways that we need each other, and the way that need can be turned around, inside-out, torn in all the wrong places but still the only blanket that you have. It's about critiquing out of love and loving despite critique, despite failure, until you can't do it anymore, until you genuinely feel as though an entire city has come to an end."

Lambda Literary

"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's long awaited memoir The End of San Francisco will rip you open, crack your rib-cage and pour glitter into your heart. It's hard and captivating, a book that truly pulls you in and won’t let you go. Brutal and brilliant, the memoir weaves in and out of time, bringing readers into the intimate details of Sycamore’s adolescence and early activist days."—Sassafras Lowrey


"A trenchant observer, her denunciation of racism, classism and homophobia is fierce and she does not spare queer communities for their  refusal to reject hetero-normativity—marriage and children—or capitalist consumption."—Eleanor Bader

SF Bay Guardian

"Searing, funny, maudlin, elegiac, infuriating, and confessional, The End of San Francisco is a deliberately disordered collection of vignettes dealing mostly with Sycamore's span living in the city and launching the highly influential Queeruption, Fed Up Queers, and Gay Shame activist movements…a brilliant writer…"—Marke B.

The Los Angeles Review of Books

"The End of San Francisco is the opposite of nostalgia. Nostalgia is fundamentally conservative, and its conservatism is often embedded in the form in which stories are told. The End of San Francisco seems to me radical, not just in content, but formally, in insisting on other ways of remembering and documenting."—Jessica Hoffman

KQED San Francisco Arts Blog

"The End of San Francisco could be the most insightful break-up memoir the city has ever received."

Elliott Bay Books

"This memoir oozes devastation and glamour, twirling around the Nineties like it's San Francisco, and San Francisco like it's the Nineties! Back when queers and anarchists fueled the political momentum in the Mission. But, honey, things are different now. The Nineties are over, and so is San Francisco. Maybe disillusionment and rejuvenation aren't so different when you're ready to go deeper still."

Capitol Hill Times

"The End of San Francisco has potential to enlighten individuals within a generation that has been told that 'marriage equality' is the ultimate right to be won by the LGBTQ community. Some readers won't like Sycamore for her social and political critiques, but she is an important figure who encourages a critical look at social action, and, for that, The End of San Francisco is an important book."

Velvet Park Media

"It's a trippy read—in multiple senses of the word—but at the same time profoundly honest and raw. Unlike many queers today, Sycamore doesn't write or live with a chip on her shoulder…and that's really refreshing and just nice to experience as a reader."—Marcie Bianco

HuffPost: Gay Voices

"…a fin-de-siècle late '90s narrative that captures the city's underground demimondaine of artists, punks, activists, anarchists and addicts whose ranks will soon be, if not completely swept away by the tech boom's false promises, then severely thinned by gentrification."—Tomas Mournian

New York Journal of Books

"The End of San Francisco recounts both joyful days and dark nights, and it's an important socio-historical account by someone who's been there and done all that."

SF Weekly: Read Local

"The 'infamous radical queer troublemaker, organizer and agitator, community builder, and anti-assimilation commentator' brings you the story of her escape to San Francisco. This is a wonderfully messy mix of memoir, social history, and elegy."—Alexis Coe

Kirkus Reviews

"An outspoken, gender-ambiguous author and activist reflects on her halcyon days as a wild child in San Francisco…The powerful opening chapter of Sycamore's (So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, 2008, etc.) deeply personal portrait finds the author (then 'Matthew') alternately sobbing at her father's deathbed and demanding acknowledgment of the sexual abuse he'd visited upon his only son. It's a raw, sobering scene that sets the tone for this introspective chronicle charting Sycamore’s zany gay youth zipping from one coast to the other in the heady 1990s. Sartorially eccentric with pink dyed hair, the author spent her restless youth commanding a 'secret world' drugging and dancing in gay nightclubs and then cruising for men online and in sex clubs from San Francisco to Boston to New York City. She writes of becoming gleefully seduced by the gender fluidity of San Francisco’s house music–powered club scene circa 1992 and participation in AIDS activism with ACT-UP. Her efforts to create a San Francisco counterculture with political activist movement Gay Shame only reiterated how much she’d outgrown the Bay Area. There are moments when Sycamore’s youth captivates with unapologetic, stream-of-consciousness tangents about bygone club life or street hustling, while in other spots, she is poetic and tender, as in describing her own exasperation with gay attraction, wishing sexual desire would 'become something else like lying in the grass and holding the sky.' Delivered in a free-form, associative writing style, Sycamore’s effort to exorcise the demons from her past is blunt, dynamic and original…A blisteringly honest portrait of a young, fast and greatly misunderstood life."