Episode 185: California Dreaming with Noa Silver


This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with author Noa Silver, who was born in Jerusalem, raised between Scotland and Maine, and now resides in Berkeley, California. After receiving her BA in English and American literature and language from Harvard University, Noa lived and taught English as a Second Language on Namdrik — part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the smallest inhabited atoll in the world. She later completed her MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University and then worked as an editor on various oral history projects, ranging from an archive documenting the Partition of India and Pakistan to a cancer researcher telling the stories of trauma experienced by cancer survivors. Her debut novel, California Dreaming — the focus of this episode — will be available everywhere on May 21st, 2024. In California Dreaming, we find Elena Berg, having grown up on stories of her mother’s wild youth in California, relocating from New England to the Bay Area in 2011 for a placement as an English teacher with Teach for America. Once there, she is eager to inspire a love of poetry and literature in her diverse but underprivileged students. Her own grandfather — a Holocaust survivor — was a storyteller and teacher who touched the lives of his students for years to come. Elena’s mother followed in his footsteps, leaving behind the hippie lifestyle of her twenties to become a university professor.

But Elena quickly finds herself feeling disconnected from teaching, unable to inspire her students, and before long, she grows disillusioned with her career. Coming of age between the Occupy and #MeToo movements and against the backdrop of the 2016 election and California’s ever-worsening fire season, Elena reckons with California as she imagined it, and California as it really is. As she does so, she must also ultimately reconcile the person she envisioned herself to be with the person she actually is.California Dreaming is a robust debut in literary fiction. It is an earnest story that encourages readers to think about how we make meaning in our lives, and how the stories we tell ourselves influence the ways in which we see the world — and our place in it.


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