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‘Joan Didion at a startup’ Rebecca Solnit
‘Impossibly pleasurable’ Jia Tolentino
‘This is essential reading’ Stylist
At twenty-five years old, Anna Wiener was beginning to tire of her assistant job in New York publishing. There was no room to grow, and the voyeuristic thrill of answering someone else’s phone had worn thin.
Within a year she had moved to Silicon Valley to take up a job at a data analytics startup in San Francisco. Leaving her business casual skirts and shirts in the wardrobe, she began working in company-branded T-shirts. She had a healthy income for the first time in her life. She felt like part of the future.
But a tide was beginning to turn. People were speaking of tech startups as surveillance companies. Out of sixty employees, only eight of her colleagues were women. Casual sexism was rife. Sexual harassment cases were proliferating. And soon, like everyone else, she was addicted to the internet, refreshing the news, refreshing social media, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Slowly, she began to realise that her blind faith in ambitious, arrogant young men from America’s soft suburbs wasn’t just her own personal pathology. It had become a global affliction.
Uncanny Valley is a coming of age story set against the backdrop of our generation’s very own gold rush. It’s a story about the tension between old and new, between art and tech, between the quest for money and the quest for meaning – about how our world is changing forever.
About the author
Anna Wiener is a contributing writer to The New Yorker online, where she writes about Silicon Valley, start-up culture, and technology. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, New York, Wired, The New Republic, and n+1, as well as in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017. She lives in San Francisco. Uncanny Valley is her first book.
Technology journalist Wiener looks at Silicon Valley life in this insider-y debut memoir that sharply critiques start-up culture and the tech industry. In 2013, Wiener left an assistant job at a New York literary agency to work for an e-book start-up run by young men who were uninterested in reading books. That job led to a move to San Francisco, where she worked in customer support at a data analytics start-up, then at a start-up that focused on software development. Wiener humorously describes the employee perks at the office ("a miniature theme park" with a wraparound bar, a roof deck, a speakeasy), though she decided to primarily work from home "in sagging leggings." Wiener writes of how she struggled to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry that lacked diversity; attended lavish work events at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lake Tahoe while San Francisco's homeless population increased; communicated with coworkers using just emoji; and watched 20-somethings get rich overnight. She eventually became disillusioned with her job ("I was burning out and failing up") and left in 2018 to pursue writing, but not before buying up her vested stock options. Wiener is an entertaining writer, and those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at life in Silicon Valley will want to take a look.