Everyone in Mendocino County needs to read this book. Immediately. It should be distributed along with voter information pamphlets, because it illustrates the complex issues involved in the growth and change of formerly rural communities. A Tale of Two Valleys is an awesome depiction of wealth, greed, and short-sightedness.
The book is about the development of Napa and Sonoma, two California regions which are pretty well known, thanks to the fact that they have turned into tourists traps with multi-million dollar trophy houses, strip malls, and world-famous restaurants. This is already starting to happen here, and has been for some time, but this book is a powerful argument for not letting it happen, for putting a stop to it before it’s too late. I raced through this boo, because it felt so viscerally familiar to me, and because it inspired me.
One of the biggest issues of the book is unchecked growth, which is something the city of Fort Bragg is (not) dealing with right now. Watching the discussions of what’s going to happen to the mill site, I’m amazed by the complete lack of foresight and respect for history going on, and the tale of Sonoma’s fight to retain the community’s less developed character is inspiring. This book shows that people are thinking ahead, that people can fight development, if they organize.
The book also talks about the pricing out of locals in these regions, as yuppies move in and drive housing prices up, again mirroring what happens here. And about the issue of weekenders who only visit their homes a few times every year, not contributing to the community at all. It’s basically like reading a book about Mendocino County, honestly, with a few small substitutions.
Sure, the book gets a bit patronizing sometimes, and it romanticizes things a bit too much for my taste. But I still think it’s a pretty solid piece of commentary, and it would seem like other people agree. A Tale of Two Valleys attracted a great deal of attention when it was first published, as you might imagine. I tend to think that’s a good thing; if a book is controversial, it’s usually because it raises issue that people won’t face. And I think that people here really should read it, and hopefully take away a few sobering lessons about our future.
A Tale of Two Valleys, by Alan Deutschman. Published 2003, 221 pages. Sociology.