Alison Owings
Headshot for Alison Owings
Agent: Reiko Davis
Personal Website

Alison Owings is the author of three previous oral history-based books: Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice), Indian Voices: Listening to Native Americans, and Hey, Waitress!: The USA from the Other Side of the Tray. A former television news writer at CBS News, she lives in San Francisco with her husband.


“Alison Owings is a master of oral history…[She] is a great storyteller and in Mayor of the Tenderloin, she has a great story to tell.”—Dan Rather, author of What Unites Us

Mayor of the Tenderloin is a charming, sometimes heartbreaking, tender, and inspiring story, important and beautifully written.”—Anne Lamott, author of Almost Everything 

“There are very few complex social dilemmas facing this country more front-burner than homelessness. Mayor of the Tenderloin provides a window as never before to this issue. These pages are filled with a reverence for complexity and the courage of tenderness. Alison Owings and her remarkable prose point to the passion and humanity of Del Seymour, and we see things anew. From addiction to eviction, from mental anguish to racial inequity, we are shown the contours of a social problem we thought we knew. No one becomes homeless because they run out of money. They become homeless because they run out of relationships.”—Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart

“With her pen at the ready and one eyebrow cocked, Alison Owings brings us deep into the prismatic life of the unforgettable Del Seymour. This book is as funny at times as it is harrowing, and as dedicated to Seymour’s unique journey as the multitudinous systemic failures that led to his addiction, sex trafficking, fractured relationships, and, of course, homelessness. Ownings has unsentimentally written a story of both struggle and hope in the absence of real structural humanity, one that winds from the Vietnam War through the crack epidemic, to the gleaming facades of the Bay Area’s boom, with Seymour squarely inventing his own path through it all. You won’t forget it.”—Lauren Sandler, author of This Is All I Got: A New Mother’s Search for Home

"When I met Del years ago, I had no idea of his incredible life journey but was struck by his compassion, humor, and grace. Today, San Francisco is in awe of the Mayor of the Tenderloin. His story—which could have been any of ours—gives hope that deep community divides can be bridged, and addiction and homelessness can be overcome."—San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu

Mayor of the Tenderloin looks unflinchingly at the realities of a huge and expanding population left out and left behind by even our most progressive and enlightened social change movements—the institutional refugees commonly referred to as the homeless. Through examination of the life and redemptive struggles of a single individual, Del Seymour, Owings brilliantly highlights the strategic imperative of not only inclusion but the acquisition of agency by the homeless in resolving the issues and thereby diminishing the myriad costs so critically burdening both them and society.”—Harry Edwards, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley

“With every page, Mayor of the Tenderloin offers society a sobering sight that let Seymour and the Tenderloin speak for themselves while also presenting readers with tangible possibilities for how we might find a way out of a continuing social nightmare and restore the Tenderloin to its rightful and humane place among San Francisco's colorful fabric…A work produced out of radical listening, compassionate questioning, deft writing, and a genuine desire to give agency, space, and recognition to one of the Tenderloin's fiercest survivors, advocates, and protectors.”—Nigel De Juan Hatton, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Literature and Philosophy at University of California, Merced

  • MAYOR OF THE TENDERLOIN: Del Seymour's Journey from Living on the Streets to Fighting Homelessness in San Francisco
    Beacon Press, 2024