In If You Lived Here You’d Be Famous by Now (Flatiron, Aug.), Bleidner brings her Gen Z perspective to growing up among California’s elite.
When did you first start writing about the quirks of growing up in Calabasas?
My initial reaction to any new environment is to journal, so I was keeping detailed diaries since my freshman year. There are selections in the book that I ripped directly from when I was writing. But I didn’t start seriously writing the book as it is now until I had a little bit of distance.
Can you tell me about the inspiration you turned to as you were writing?
When I started writing, it came from a place of frustration because a lot of media that focuses on the high school experience really gets it wrong, I think. And I understand why, because you lose that weird high school gaze the second that you’re out of it. The first book that I read that helped me formulate my ideas was Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which was super hard to find. I looked everywhere. Copies were really expensive online—I was able to find one at my university library. And I watched a ton of ’80s movies, lots of John Hughes. I’m a big fan of the essay—I read Joan Didion and Chuck Klosterman. Also, this is a little more of an oddball, but a masterpiece about Los Angeles is Helter Skelter. I think it’s the most L.A. book. And that, too, in a weird way, helped me navigate the way I wanted to talk about Southern California.
One thing that stuck out to me is a sense that Gen Z is in a way misaligned, but also misunderstood. What do you most hope readers take away from these essays in that regard?
The whole inspiration for the book was the way that a proximity to the entertainment industry gives young people a skewed perspective about what success means, what being well-adjusted means, because they’re always reaching for fame. But now I think that’s more universal, because anyone can become famous online. And that’s a really tantalizing prospect. So, I think that’s always sort of in reach. We’ll be a little misaligned, because you don’t know what the world is like outside the internet, really.
How did you come up with the title?
There’s an apartment complex in Isla Vista that says out front, “If you lived here you’d be in class by now.” I was racking my brain for a title, which was one of the hardest parts. I was biking around, and I was like, “Oh, I don’t know what to do.” And it was backlit by the sun, that sign.