Categories: Arts Literature

‘Sophia of Silicon Valley’ a young woman’s inside take on high tech

Anna Yen’s debut novel “Sophia of Silicon Valley” tells the insider story of a young Chinese-American woman whose life and career get a boost from a couple of idiosyncratic high-powered high-tech moguls.

Now in her 40s, Yen herself calls it a thinly veiled memoir of her years working closely as an investors relations expert and liaison next to Steve Jobs (when he was at Pixar) and, later, Tesla’s Elon Musk.

A super easy read, the book amuses with behind-the-scenes conversations about the machinations of big business during twentysomething Sophia Young’s tenure at Treehouse (i.e. Pixar), having merged with Samba (Disney) as it prepares for its initial public offering and the release of the movie “Treasures” (“Toy Story”).

In first person, Sophia serves up detailed descriptions of the glitzy offices where she works, her journeys into luxury hotels and on private planes, and her designer wardrobe choices for big days on the job.

At the outset, she gets fired from a gig in investment banking, but, thanks to connections and a sassy interview, lands on her feet as paralegal at a high-profile Silicon Valley law office where, thanks to 80-hour work weeks, she learns the ins and outs of IPOs.

She gets recruited by one of the firm’s moneyed clients Scott Kraft (Jobs) after he overhears her on the phone getting a difficult client to sign a document under duress (“You have a holistic way of manipulating people,” he tells her) and even manages to become friends with her infamously temperamental superior.

The book’s prologue has her spending $100 on a vegan chocolate chip cookie for him at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza market; by the end, he has gifted her with a live octopus, and the two have shared intimate discussions about health, mortality and love.

And Sophia’s relationship with her old-school, demanding Taiwanese parents — she still lives in her upscale Silicon Valley mansion, lies to them when she spends the night with her boyfriend and deals with their disdain — is vividly portrayed.

Still, in the 21st century and #MeToo era, Sophia’s life registers oddly.

She begins the book yearning for a husband (hoping her banking job would be a path to a “white picket fence and Mrs. Homemaker lifestyle”) and her relationships — gossiping with friends and pining over lovers — often read like something from Seventeen magazine or “Mean Girls.”

Somewhat interesting, yet paradoxically also off-putting, is the fact that Sophia’s success in the male world of high finance has to do with her foul mouth, her ability to keep up and cuss with the boys as much as it does with her skills or business savvy.

While Yen aims for a breezy portrayal of high-tech world in the late 20th century where magnates are humanized and revered for their quirkiness, in the end, “Sophia of Silicon Valley” serves up a mostly surface look at the Bay Area geographic and economic community that changed the world.

BOOK REVIEW
Sophia of Silicon Valley
Written by: Anna Yen
Published by: HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 373
Price: $26.99

Leslie Katz
Share
Published by
Leslie Katz

Recent Posts

Golden State Warriors drop fourth loss of the year as Draymond Green returns

By C.J. Peterson Special to S.F. Examiner Pushing the ball down court on a fast break opportunity in the first…

7 hours ago

The number of missing people in Butte County fire jumps dramatically to 631

The death toll from the devastating Camp fire in Northern California jumped to 63 on Thursday as search crews recovered…

9 hours ago

Films opening Thursday-Friday Nov. 15-16, 2018

FILMS OPENING Burning: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo and Steven Yeun appear in Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s moody adaptation of Haruki…

13 hours ago

Family continues fight to sue SF over Kate Steinle’s fatal shooting

A panel of federal appeals court judges heard arguments Thursday in a lawsuit from the parents of Kate Steinle, who…

13 hours ago

Recycling proposal to require hiring trash sorters held up in board committee

A proposal designed to boost San Francisco’s recycling rate, but which could force large businesses to hire trash sorters, failed…

14 hours ago

Unhealthy haze over SF Bay Area from Butte County fire prompts health warnings

Smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County continued to hang over San Francisco and the Bay Area on Thursday,…

15 hours ago