In his hotly anticipated 700-page book, Palo Alto, the writer and activist examines a dark history through the lens of his hometown
In January 2011, a 19-year-old in Palo Alto died by suicide on the train tracks running through town, part of a disturbing, decade-long pattern of deaths of despair in the wealthy heart of Silicon Valley. The same week, a 19-year-old Chinese worker at Foxconn, the company that built iPhones, also died by suicide, part of a series of deaths among young people working on the grueling assembly lines at one of China’s most famous tech manufacturers.
Palo Alto, a new book by the American author Malcolm Harris, attempts to understand the connection between these patterns of suicide at two different hubs of the global tech economy. To do so, Harris digs deeply into the history of Palo Alto, the home of Stanford University and the town where he grew up. As a teenager coming of age in the early 2000s, he saw the town’s international influence grow along with the tech companies headquartered around it, and the number of suicides among his classmates.