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. Her work has been hailed by Kirkus as “oral history at its best,” as “engrossing, affecting” and “a trailblazing contribution” by Publishers Weekly, as “a remarkable work that…transcends the genre of oral history and turns into something more elaborate and accomplished and memorable,” by the Los Angeles Times, and “vivid and often poignant portraits-cum-interviews…extraordinary” by The New York Times, to name just a few highlights of praise. She has spoken at over fifty universities and Holocaust centers. A former television news writer at CBS News, she lives in San Francisco with her husband.


“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. Del Seymour's life, and Owings' telling of it, invites us to relational wholeness and the kinship of God.”—Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and New York Times bestselling author of Tattoos on the Heart, Barking to the Choir, and The Whole Language


“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, New York Times bestselling author of What Unites Us


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


“Alison Owings’s book 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, she 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


Mayor of the Tenderloin removes society’s blinders with every page, replacing those comforts with ways of seeing and 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

    Beacon Press, 2024