For many of us—the weird ones, the dissatisfied ones, the ones who get bored easily—young adulthood is less sketched out in events than in geographies. A memorably crazy fuck-buddy situation is inextricably tied to a shitty Pittsburgh apartment; a succession of humiliating jobs is lightened with the sun and sounds of San Diego. A new city can be a canvas on which the young and the angry get to experiment with themselves, to sketch out the boundaries of their personalities.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's whip-raw memoir The End of San Francisco (City Lights, $15.95) is all about that experience, 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. It's the story of how Sycamore transformed from a drug-addicted, angry gay man named Matthew into an influential queer activist. She partly makes that transformation thanks to San Francisco's culture of tolerance, but it also happens partly out of spite in the face of San Francisco's gentrification and self-satisfaction.

Much of the comfort of moving to a city is finding other people who are just like you...

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