Inter State: Essays from California

In Stores 9/14/2021 via Soft Skull Press

A debut collection of poetic, linked essays investigating the past and present state of California, its conflicting histories and their impact on a writer’s family and life.

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California has been advertised as a destiny manifested for those ready to pull up their bootstraps and head west across to find wealth on the other side of the Sierra Nevada since the 19th century. Across the eight essays in the debut collection by José Vadi, we hear from the descendants of those not promised that prize. 

INTER STATE explores California through many lenses: an aging obsessed skateboarder; a self-appointed dive bar DJa laid-off San Francisco tech worker turned rehired contractor; a grandson of Mexican farmworkers pursuing the crops they tilled.

Amidst wildfires, high speed rail, housing crises, unprecedented wealth and its underlying decay, INTER STATE excavates and roots itself inside those necessary stories and places lost in the ever-changing definitions of a selectively golden state.

Praise For Inter State: Essays From California

“Part love letter, part indictment, this moving debut essay collection from Vadi captures the changing landscape of California. A native Californian, aging skateboarder, and poet, Vadi laments in deeply felt prose California’s transformation . . . The provocative observations will please essay fans.” —Publishers Weekly

“Inter State is a cinematic, tender collection of essays that breathe memory into the layered histories of an ever changing California. Written with prose that sings with love, Vadi demands that we pay homage to the cracks, the streets, the buildings, and familial bodies that once occupied spaces now crowded with gentrifiers and dreamers. ‘How can I tell you how much an intersection means to me?’ Vadi writes, and so we learn a land by driving, walking, by skating through smoke and ruin, paying attention to what startling beauty persists.” — Mariama J. Lockington, author of The Lucky Daughter and For Black Girls Like Me 

“In this lyrical collection, ethnographer-on-a-skateboard José Vadi uses personal and family history to explore the vicissitudes of California life. Inter State is a soulful chronicle of precariousness in the Golden State—including farm work, tech work, homelessness, gentrification, and wildfires—that also pays homage to the familiar drives, dive bars, and skate spots that will keep its author loyal until death. A rich and moving meditation on the forces that can make us feel displaced even when we know we are at home.” —Nina Renata Aron, author of Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls

“This is a must read book, it must be read to yourself, aloud to your friends, and to strangers on the bus. José Vadi’s brilliant collection Inter State maps internal and external geographies of California through lush description and deft analysis. From the Bay Area down through the Central Valley into SoCal this collection showcases a voice keenly aware of how history is alive both in the landscape as well as inside his own writing body.”—sam sax, author of Madness and Bury It

“I wonder if our country had more writers like José Vadi whether we’d be in quite so wretched a state as we are. With wit and rage and love in equal measures, Inter State is an antidote to the persistent mythology of power as character. Vadi claws elbow-deep into the soil to unearth that which has been buried, forced aside, and willfully forgotten. He speaks of family and injustice, of labor camps and tech booms, and after reading this book, it is clear that anyone who writes of California without anger is a liar. I look very forward to reading it again.” —Kyle Beachy, author of The Slide: A Novel

“What a pleasure it is to trace the many histories of California as mapped by the reverent and incisive José Vadi. Whether driving through a central state valley, trudging up a San Francisco hill, dodging cops, or just making his way through a decadent museum, each of the routes he winds for us is peppered deliciously with historical, political and familial stories all the while being driven by exquisite and generous prose. All these long and meandering sentences moving languidly like a coastline, like a famous highway, like a grape vine: rippling, bending, cascading like the landscape he is conjuring, making memorials where there are none but where there should be. The writing is candid, colorful, captivating and just like the feeling you get when you’re in California, you want to stay here, on this land and in this language forever. Vadi is the perfect Californian flâneur: well paced, inconspicuously observant, just a little bit legally high and reporting live from his skateboard.” —Lauren Whitehead, Writer. Performer. Assistant Arts Professor of Drama at NYU Tisch School of the Arts 

“Cerebral and rich with history and sharp observation, Inter State is a searing love letter to California, a physical and emotional map of the places and people we call home, cities that destroy as well as nourish. With smart prose and daring form, these are perfect essays for our complicated times.” —Melissa Valentine, author of The Names of All the Flowers


Soft Skull, 9781593766955, 224pp.
Publication Date: September 14, 2021